Davenport, FL – Two civil rights groups have demanded a Polk County sergeant be criminally charged for tasing a 15-year-old suspect accused of resisting arrest during a violent domestic disturbance call late last week.
According to court documents, the chaotic incident unfolded at the Sunset Palm Hotel on the night of July 8, WTVT reported.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) received a report that a 15-year-old male had assaulted his 18-year-old girlfriend, who was seven months pregnant, according to WFLA.
Investigators said the incident began when the couple started fighting over a cell phone, WTVT reported.
The suspect allegedly grabbed the phone from the 18-year-old woman and smashed it on the ground, then shoved her multiple times, according to court documents.
The victim said the suspect grabbed her by her neck and pinned her against a wall, but that she was able to free herself, police said.
She said he then “slapped” her repeatedly in the face and chest and bit her in her upper back, “leaving a bite mark,” according to court documents.
The suspect allegedly grabbed the woman by her hair and threw her against a wall yet again, WTVT reported.
When PCSO Sergeant Shannon Gaylord arrived at the scene, she spotted the suspect “holding the victim by her hair,” according to investigators.
The woman appeared to be trying to get away.
Sgt. Gaylord jumped out of her patrol vehicle, announced herself, and ordered the violent teen to let go of the woman and to “separate,” according to court documents.
“Due to the suspect not complying with the lawful commands given, Sgt. Gaylord then pushed the suspect on his back separating the two allowing her to get in between both parties,” investigators said. “The suspect continued to ignore lawful commands given by Sgt. Gaylord to which she then drew her agency Taser and armed it.”
“Tase me! F—ing tase me!” the suspect allegedly yelled, ignoring Sgt. Gaylord’s commands to get on the ground.
As he went to walk away from her, the sergeant grabbed the suspect’s left hand.
The suspect responded by grabbing her hand and trying to “remove her grip,” according to court documents.
Sgt. Gaylord ordered the suspect not to touch her, to which the suspect allegedly replied, “don’t f—ing touch me then,” police said.
The teen allegedly continued to “tense up” and resist, so the sergeant maneuvered him up against a window and was able to get his left hand behind his back, WTVT reported.
But he continued to ignore her commands to place his right hand behind his back, police said.
“I ain’t doing s—t!” he proclaimed, pushing himself away from the window.
“I’m going to swing on her,” he allegedly threatened. “I’m going to f—ing swing on her!”
“Due to the suspect being larger than Sgt. Gaylord, the suspect’s actions and attitudes, the suspect actively resisting, and the suspect threatening to do bodily harm against Sgt. Gaylord, this placed Sgt. Gaylord in fear and cause her to believe that danger was imminent,” court documents read, according to WTVT.
Sgt. Gaylord let go of the teen’s wrist and deployed her Taser, hitting him in the “mid to lower back and effectively incapacitating him” for about five seconds, investigators said.
The suspect fell to the ground and was handcuffed as additional law enforcement officers arrived at the scene, WTVT reported.
“Take these cuffs off so I can beat this b—h’s -ss!” the teen allegedly yelled, according to court documents.
PCSO Media Relations Administrator Carrie Horstman said the suspect was “actively fighting” the sergeant during the incident, WFLA reported.
“She ended up having to use her Taser. This guy’s 5’9, 190 pounds. Our sergeant’s probably 5’5, but she’s tough,” Horstman said. “She’s the only female on our SWAT team actually.”
— Polk County Sheriff 🚔 Grady Judd (@PolkCoSheriff) October 11, 2017
As Haines City Police Officer Brad Webster was running to assist Sgt. Gaylord with the violent suspect, he jumped over a fence and inadvertently ran out in front of a responding PCSO patrol vehicle.
Officer Webster was hit by the cruiser and suffered unspecified injuries, WTVT reported.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital as a trauma alert.
Officer Webster remained hospitalized on July 13 but was expected to be released to continue his recovery at home by the weekend.
The suspect has been charged with resisting with violence, battery on a pregnant individual, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting without violence, and assault on a law enforcement officer, WTVT reported.
Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk and the Poor & Minority Justice Association denounced the teen’s arrest and alleged Sgt. Gaylord used excessive force during the encounter, according to WTVT.
They claimed cell phone footage recorded by the suspect’s mother at the time of the incident proved he didn’t pose any threat to police.
“Video footage, captured by [the boy’s] mother, revealed that [the boy] did not pose a threat to law enforcement at the time he was Tased by Sergeant Gaylord and we find the actions taken by Sergeant Gaylord unjustified and unlawful,” the groups declared, according to WFLA.
They doubled-down on their allegations during a press conference on July 13 and demanded the Department of Justice and the Florida State’s Attorney’s Office launch an investigation into the incident.
They also called for Sgt. Gaylord to be criminally charged, WFLA reported.
The civil rights groups accused police of lying in the affidavit, and argued that the teen never assaulted the 18-year-old pregnant woman.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held a press conference and played the 911 call his department received that triggered the law enforcement response to the hotel.
A woman could be heard screaming in the recording for several seconds before the line went dead.
Sheriff Judd said the 911 dispatcher had to call the number back twice to get enough information to provide officers with a location.
“Please hurry,” the caller said over and over during the chaotic call.
“That’s what our sergeant arrived to by herself,” Sheriff Judd told reporters.
He noted that bystanders ran to help the sergeant when they saw her trying to handle the situation on her own.
“It was so violent that other people at the hotel came to back up my deputy,” he said.
The Good Samaritans later provided statements to investigators regarding the violent suspect’s actions.
The sheriff said the victim also provided a written statement to investigators saying the teen had attacked her, but that she has since asked to retract it, WFLA reported.
Sheriff Judd said the victim’s hesitation has nothing to do with the suspect’s behavior during the incident.
The sheriff is standing behind Sgt. Gaylord and said she handled the situation in accordance with protocol, WFLA reported.
He further noted that the sergeant showed great restraint and that he would have deployed a Taser to subdue the violent suspect long before she did, WTVT reported.
“She doesn’t have to wait for a 5’9″, 190-pound man to turn around and knock her down before she acts,” Sheriff Judd said, according to WFLA. “If we messed up, we’ll dress up, fess up and fix up. We didn’t do anything except what we should have done.”