Two 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 incident in question happened on May 25 when 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.
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.
Edge is also seen on dash cam video pulling Reed's hair and grabbing his neck. Fineran can be seen hitting Reed's left side with his handcuffs.
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.
As a result of the investigation, Deputy Edge received a 15 day suspension without pay for using improper technique/police practices.
Deputy Fineran was suspended 5 days for turning off his microphone during the encounter.
“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.”
Two firearms registered to Reed were located in the car he arrived in.
Charges against Reed were dropped.
Rayner said it is too early to comment on whether they will file a civil suit against the department.