Pinellas county deputy fired after hitting inmate - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas county deputy fired after hitting inmate

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

A hit to the side of an inmate's head has cost a Pinellas County deputy his job.

Pinellas Co. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he fired Deputy Richard Stotts on Monday after a thorough internal investigation.

"For a deputy sheriff to go up and smack him in the side of the head the way that he did - I'm not going to tolerate it," Sheriff Gualtieri said.

A detention center surveillance video captured the May 8 incident in the booking area. The sheriff said Clearwater Police had arrested David Allen Koons for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.

The video shows Koons yelling racial slurs and other profanities at the detention staff. The sheriff says Koons posed no threat to staff because he was wearing a "belly band," which immobilized his hands. Yet, according to the Sheriff's Office and the surveillance video, Deputy Stotts walked over to Koons and struck him in the lower neck and head with his right forearm.

Investigators said, with his arm placed around the inmate's head, Stotts dropped the inmate to the floor and got on top of him.

The sheriff said it didn't hurt Koons but alarmed supervisors.

"As soon as they saw what happened, they knew it was wrong," Gualtieri said. "They knew we had to take appropriate action so they referred it to our internal affairs division."

During that investigation, Stotts admitted the use of force was not justified and that it "didn't meet the criteria," according to the sheriff's office.

He had served as a detention deputy for 12 years. He's not facing criminal charges, in part, because the victim has not cooperated in the investigation, according to Gualtieri.

It's the third time in a year that the Pinellas Co. Sheriff's Office has fired a deputy for excessive use of force. In June, administrators fired Deputy Elizabeth Kretzer over a December incident. A report says she pulled an inmate into an interview room and slapped her after that inmate had flipped her off among other things.

And in October, Deputy Desmond Quinn lost his job for slamming inmate David Fowler to the ground in May 2012.

"I don't think there's any relationship between these," Gualtieri said.

He doesn't believe there's a problem in the jail; rather he says his administration is being tougher on excessive force. He says in Stotts' case for instance, the inmate never complained and his office policed itself.

"This is us saying - look - we're going to watch what we're doing...we're going to watch our own and when they don't do it right, we're going to take swift and effective action," Gualtieri said.

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