Lakeland Police officers caught on video kicking, punching man under I-4 overpass

Incident now under investigation
Posted at 10:27 PM, Apr 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-11 14:49:22-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Lakeland Police department is reviewing a video that shows officers engaged in a struggle with a man under the US 98 North and I-4 overpass.

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Joel Alfaro took the video and posted it to Facebook on Tuesday evening.

Three hours after the video was posted, the Lakeland Police Department posted on Facebook stating:

"Earlier this afternoon, the Lakeland Police Department was notified about a social media post showing two of our officers in a struggle with a subject under the 98 North and I-4 overpass that took place around 4:20 p.m. We have reviewed the video, and it is understandable that some may form an opinion based solely on the viewpoint shown. All use of force incidents are reported and thoroughly reviewed by the chain-of-command and the Office of Professional Standards."

Then around 11:00 Tuesday night, they posted a lengthier post detailing what happened before Alfaro hit record.

According to the post, Officer J.R. West saw 38-year-old Justin Abbott sleeping on the side of US 98 North under the I-4 overpass and approached him to explained it was too dangerous to sleep there. He then gave Abbott a warning for trespassing and told him to leave. At that point in time, Officer DeAngelo Anthony arrived.

When Abbott refused to leave, both officers tried taking him into custody, but Abbott struggled with them and pushed Officer Anthony. That sent all of them tumbling to the ground.

As they continued to struggle, Officer West decided to use his taser on Abbott. When the taser failed to stop Abbott, he reached for West's taser — and that is where the video begins.

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According to the department, "both officers used various physical tactics, including strikes to the upper torso, in an attempt to gain control of Abbott and take him into custody."

They said their "preliminary investigation shows that Officer West and Officer Anthony were justified in their response and acted within their Use Of Force policy." 

Abbott has been charged with trespassing and resisting with violence.

The incident is still undergoing administrative review, which according to the Lakeland Police Department, is standard protocol in use of force cases.