MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A corrections deputy has resigned after he was seen on video punching an inmate, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office says.
A media release sent out Friday morning says the internal investigation into 34-year-old Louis Valentin, a former corrections deputy, is complete. The excessive force investigation stemmed from an incident that happened earlier this month at the county jail.
Deputies say Valentin was caught on camera punching an inmate around 1 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4. An incident report released by the sheriff’s office says it happened after Valentin responded to loud banging and yelling. Valentin said he found the noise was coming from a cell occupied by two inmates.
After one of the inmates was identified as the instigator of the disturbance, deputies say Valentin went into the cell to confront him. The incident report says, “it is alleged Deputy Valentin punched (the inmate) on the left side of his face.” Valentin then put the inmate in handcuffs and escorted him to the disciplinary exercise yard.
Valentin placed the inmate inside the yard and then tried closing the door, but deputies say the inmate started pulling on the door and failed to let go as instructed.
“After a short tug of war with the door, Deputy Valentin pushed the door inward and entered the cell,” the report states. “Deputy Valentin approached (the inmate) and punched him along the left side of his face/head.”
According to the incident report, Deputy Valentin claimed the punch was in reaction to the inmate spitting on him, which the inmate “adamantly denied.”
The investigation began after the incident was reported to professional standards. The sheriff’s office says Valentin, who was facing termination and possible battery charges, resigned on Aug. 8 before the investigation was complete.
“This is not how our deputies are trained, and this type of behavior will not be tolerated at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Rick Wells said in a statement. “Standards are in place to prevent incidents like this from happening, but when a deputy or employee fails to follow our rules they will face consequences for their actions, to include termination and criminal prosecution.”
Valentin was hired by the sheriff’s office in December 2015. The case has now been turned over to the state attorney’s office to decide whether criminal charges will be filed.
In a statement, Sheriff Wells said all corrections deputies are currently going through training to address recent “abusive conduct” incidents.
“Recently, there has been a pattern of abusive conduct among a small percentage of the approximately 300 corrections employees, of which those four have been criminally charged,” the sheriff said. “This culture has been identified, and all deputies in our Corrections Bureau are currently going through additional training.”