NewsPinellas County

Actions

Two St. Petersburg police officers disciplined for unnecessary use of force in separate incidents

Posted at 9:52 AM, Jul 25, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All 562 St. Petersburg police officers will now receive training on excessive use of force after what Chief Anthony Holloway calls "unnecessary" actions.

Two St. Petersburg police officers were disciplined for using too much force in two separate arrests.

The first happened on April 5 when K-9 Officer Matthew Kirchgraber was assisting a Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputy in the arrest of Tyrin Thompson on 4th Ave. S. Officer Kirchgraber was accused of using an unnecessary amount of force during the arrest when he delivered three punches or "distractionary blows" as officers called them to Thompson.

The arrest was captured on Thompson's aunt's home security video. Thompson's family brought the video to the attention of the police department.

“As a big brother, I was mad. When I watched the video, I was totally upset,” Thompson's brother Shrodderick Pritchett explained. Pritchett went to St. Pete Police Headquarters to file a formal complaint about his brother being punched.

Officer Kirchgraber, who has been on the force for nine years, was disciplined with an employee notice.

“This is not a good day for us," Chief Anthony Holloway said during a press conference Thursday.

The incident with Thompson is one of two under the microscope. A month later on May 2, helicopter video shows David Baker running from officers. St. Pete Police investigators say as Baker tried to surrender with his arms in the air, Officer Andrew Viehmann deployed his taser. Viehmann says he deployed his taser because Baker had "a large visible knife in his pocket." Holloway also called that "unnecessary."

“Everyone, that’s including me, will get self-defense tactic training,” Holloway explained.

Officer Viehmann, who has been with the force 11 years, was disciplined with an employee notice and a two week unpaid suspension.

Police investigators say Officer Seth Maranville, who has been with the force for eight years, was also present at the arrest and was reprimanded for improper procedures because he did not intervene or report the tasing to a supervisor. Maranville received discipline of an employee notice.

What about incidents not caught on camera? Chief Holloway says they're getting ready to test out body cameras that automatically turn on when an officer pulls his gun, taser or baton. The body cameras also pre-roll showing the moment leading up to an officer grabbing his weapon. Officers will test out the new tasers in August and Holloway plans to make a formal request for funding to city council soon.

"I support body cameras. I just want to make sure we make the right investment," Holloway added.

Holloway says the cameras could help protect officers as well. Once a camera is turned on, it sends an alert to a supervisor and nearby officers to let them know an officer has deployed their weapon.