Man files lawsuit for alleged police brutality

Police responded to dispute netween neighbors


A Bay area man is suing the City of Lakeland, it's current and former police chiefs and two officers for alleged police brutality. Joseph Florence says he wants to see changes to police training and supervision.


Florence says it all started when he had a dispute with his neighbor, two years ago. He was upset about Steven Roth's yard across the street and took it upon himself to mow and water the lawn. Roth called police. When officers Heather Freeman and Nicholas Ivancevic got there, he says they kept questioning him. He got tired of it and tried to go inside.


That's when he says things got physical.


Florence said, "Yes the officer was. I did put him in a headlock. He got in. He threw some punches. He got in close on by body. To protect myself, I wrapped him up."


Florence says it got worse. He says they hit him with a flashlight and continued the attack. Florence said, "The officer was ramming my head into the bricks. I was attempting to protect my face by putting my hands under my face." 


But, the Lakeland Police Department tells a different story. Reports say when officers arrived, Florence smelled of alcohol and yelled at them. The report also says when they tried to arrest him, he resisted and assaulted officers. When he wouldn't stop, the report says they struck and taxed him and eventually took him into custody. 


Officers charged him in the incident, but the State Attorney's Office dismissed the charges. 


Florence says he's been in constant physical pain since the incident. "I have  great deal of numbness, tingling, burning. It varies." He says he has neurological issues and has had four surgeries since the arrest.


Florence's lawyer, Robert McKee, tells ABC Action News the accused have 20 days to respond to the complaint. McKee says they're suing for at least $100,000. The exact amount depends on medical expenses.

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