CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — A Clearwater police officer was arrested on two felony charges Tuesday after he allegedly sexually battered a tourist early Sunday morning, according to Chief Eric Gandy.
“I had to check myself before coming in here,” Gandy said during Tuesday’s press conference. “I’m exceptionally upset about the betrayal of trust, the level of confidence that people have in our officers is exceptionably damaging to our reputation and the reputation of everyone in law enforcement. It erodes the confidence in our profession, and on a personal level, I know how hard we struggle to maintain trust, so for me, having to come here today, was infuriating because I have to have this conversation with you, but it’s an important conversation it have.”
Gandy said Officer Nicolas Paloma stopped a 32-year-old woman for jaywalking at the Clearwater Beach roundabout just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
According to police, he offered the woman a ride to her hotel and told her “she could take care of the charges by doing things to him.”
Authorities said Paloma turned off his tracker and started driving around various locations on Clearwater Beach for about 30 minutes. During this time, he allegedly engaged in sex acts with the woman before dropping her off down the street from her hotel.
A press release stated that the incident came to light when officers responded to a dispute between the victim and her friend at the hotel following the incident.
Authorities immediately contacted Chief Gandy, who ordered an immediate criminal investigation. From there, detectives from the Crimes Against Children and Families unit took over the case.
Detectives worked throughout the day Sunday and Monday on the case, which resulted in Paloma facing two felony charges of false imprisonment and sexual battery.
“What this officer did is reprehensible,” Gandy said. “He’s someone who took an oath to enforce the law, not break the law in an egregious way while wearing a badge and a uniform.”
Paloma, who has been placed on administrative leave, has been with the agency since 2018 and has no previous disciplinary history. The Clearwater Police Department announced in an update Thursday that Paloma has been fired.
He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail Tuesday. Police are asking anyone with information on any similar cases to contact the department at 727-562-4385.
This is a developing story that will be updated with information as we receive it.