From [HERE] and [HERE] Two white Pinellas County Deputies were suspended Wednesday afternoon following an excessive force investigation. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said their suspensions, however, were not related to the use of excessive force.
The sheriff handed down 15 days to Deputy Alexander Edge, who Gualtieri said behaved recklessly by jumping on the back of Jimarez Donshay Reed while he was face-down on the ground during the May 25 incident.
Edge was disciplined for violating policies governing the custody of arrestees and conducting proper investigations.
Deputy Jason Fineran, who responded to the scene after Edge, was given a five-day suspension after investigators found he disabled the audio on his dashboard camera after arriving at the arrest scene.
The investigation was sparked by an internal affairs complaint filed by Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger after he watched dashboard camera video that appeared to show deputies beating Reed.
The incident in question happened on May 25 when the Sheriff’s Office received a call that Reed was refusing to leave a gathering at a home near Pinellas Park. On Edge’s way to the call, he was told Reed may have a weapon. Reed was properly licensed to carry a firearm.
Deputy Alexander Edge and Deputy Jason Fineran responded to 7171 79th St. N. Deputy Edge was advised that Jimarez Reed was seen with a firearm in his hand. Gualtieri says Reed did not initially comply with verbal commands.
At Fineran’s command, Reed puts his empty hands on top of the car, then lay flat on his stomach on the pavement. The deputies, still under the impression Reed was armed, mistakenly thought he had put the gun in his waistband. Instead of communicating and properly positioning himself with Fineran, the sheriff said, Edge approached Reed from behind and jumped on his back.
Deputy Edge then struck Reed's head seven times once he was on the ground, and Deputy Fineran who also responded, hit him once with a closed fist in the head.
Fineran also participated in the struggle, striking Reed with his handcuffs and hitting him five times in the face. Edge is also seen on dash cam video pulling Reed's hair and grabbing his neck.
A third deputy on scene, Deputy Martinez used his Taser to stun Reed twice, at which point Deputy Fineran hit him five more times in the head.
Reed suffered a laceration above his left eyebrow as a result of the use of force.
Reed turned out to be unarmed. Two guns, including the .45-caliber handgun, were found in his car and he was arrested that night. But on Oct. 26 the State Attorney’s Office dropped a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, saying "further prosecution is not warranted." in other words, he was falsely arrested by white cops because he was properly licensed to possess firearms and had not committed any crimes in the presence of the cops. The cops could have very easily checked whether he was licensed to carry but instead detained him in violation of his so-called 4th Amendment rights after beating him down.
The force used by deputies to subdue Reed was lawful, Gualtieri said, but they could have avoided engaging in a struggle if Edge followed procedure. The deputy will also have to undergo additional use-of-force training.
“We don’t know what was said because the microphone was turned off so we don’t know if deputy Edge was yelling at him cursing at him saying ‘I’m going to kill you,’” Michele Rayner, Reed’s attorney said. Rayner said her client was complying with demands and had his hands on the hood.
“You see him willingly put himself on the ground,” Rayner said.
The Sheriff made it clear the suspensions were not for striking Reed, but for violating other department policy.
“It wasn’t safe,” Gualtieri said. “You need to use good judgment, you need to use good discretion, you need to follow your training, you need to do the right thing and if you don’t there needs to be consequences for it.”
Sheriff Gualtieri says the video does not tell the whole story.
He says Reed was acting erratically and refused to listen to the deputies who believed he had a gun on him.
ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska spoke to Patrick Wilson a Good Samaritan who helped restrain Reed that night and who is conflicted about what happened.
“The officer was chasing him (Reed) around the car, he was staying down low. The officer really couldn’t see him. He wouldn’t show his hands saying ‘they are going to kill me they are going to kill me.’”
Wilson said he was with his fiancé visiting her friend when Reed showed up.
“I think there were nine kids in the house that night,” Wilson said. “He was there for no good at one point he had a gun and one of the girls called 911.”
Wilson said he feared for the safety of his children.
“I saw a black pistol in his back left hand,” Wilson said.
But, after helping deputies restrain Reed, Wilson said he was disappointed when he saw the force used to restrain him.
“Shocked from being hit with cuffs it was mind blowing I was speechless after watching the video,” Wilson said.
Sheriff Gualtieri said his deputies had to use force to subdue Reed and it was justified. After reviewing 15 hours of testimony the sheriff said he felt that his deputies believed they were in danger.
“Deputy Edge testified during the internal investigation that he was in fear for his life and was waiting to hear the gunshot from Reed,” Gualtieri said.
Reed’s attorney told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska there is a culture in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office of protecting his deputies. Michele Rayner said the deputies shouldn’t have been suspended they should have been fired.
“He is not a felon so he is able to carry guns lawfully,” Rayner said. “Emphatic that he never pulled the gun out that he doesn’t keep them on his person because he doesn’t have his CWP his concealed weapons permit.”