Sunrise, FL – A Sunrise police sergeant has been relieved of duty for attacking an officer and putting his hands around her neck after she intervened to de-escalate a conflict with a handcuffed suspect (video below).
The incident occurred on Nov. 19, 2021 when Sunrise police officers responded to a call at a convenience store on Sunset Strip, WPLG reported.
Police said Jean Bernard Similien had battered several people and resisted arrest when officers took him into custody.
Bodycam video from the scene showed that Similien was handcuffed in the back of the police car and Sunrise Police Sergeant Christopher Pullease was arguing with him through the open door.
The video showed that Sgt. Pullease pulled out his pepper spray and appeared to threaten the handcuffed suspect with it at one point but never deployed it.
There was no audio in the video that was released.
“Once the suspect was inside the patrol vehicle, the sergeant approached and engaged in a verbal altercation with the suspect in a manner that I feel was inappropriate and unprofessional. This supervisor escalated the encounter instead of de-escalating an emotionally charged situation,” Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa told reporters, according to WPLG.
That was when a Sunrise police officer who saw what was happening stepped in to de-escalate the situation between the sergeant and Similien.
The video showed the female officer grabbed the sergeant from behind by his gun belt and pulled him away from the police vehicle where the suspect was sitting.
The sergeant reacted quickly, and turned to grab the officer by the throat and pushed her back up against a police SUV, bodycam showed.
The video showed Sgt. Pullease slammed a patrol vehicle door and turned and yelled at the officer who had intervened to de-escalate the situation.
Chief Rosa praised the officer’s intervention in the incident and said she showed good leadership during a tense situation, WPLG reported.
“So I’m very proud of this police officer,” the police chief told WSVN. “She took some definitive action. I can only imagine what she must be feeling. She’s a newer officer, and he’s a very senior sergeant.”
He said the 28-year-old officer has been a member of the Sunrise police force for about two-and-a-half years.
Sgt. Pullease is a 46-year-old, 21-year veteran of the Sunrise Police Department, according to WSVN.
The sergeant has had only two use-of-force complaints filed against him during his career and both were unfounded.
There is a new Florida law was passed in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the custody of the Minneapolis police that requires police officers to intervene and de-escalate if they see a fellow officer overstepping during an incident, WSVN reported.
“This officer intervening and stopping a situation from getting any worse is a direct reflection of the training that we do do with the police department, and I think that it’s important to note that the behavior is very unacceptable by the sergeant, but the behavior of the officer that intervened is exactly what society’s asking their police officers to do right now,” Chief Rosa said.
The police chief said Sgt. Pullease had been placed on desk duty while the investigation was completed, WSVN reported.
But some critics want to know why no charges have been brought against the police official for manhandling the officer who intervened, WPLG reported.
Broward County Public Defender Gordon Weekes sent a letter to Chief Rosa that asked why Sgt. Pullease hadn’t been arrested.
Weekes wrote that 410 people have pending cases for battery on a law enforcement officer and all of those suspects were arrested on site when the incident occurred, WPLG reported.
The public defender told the police chief he didn’t think officers who engaged in wrongdoing should be treated differently than regular citizens.
Chief Rosa cited the ongoing internal affairs investigation for not releasing certain details of the incident at this point but said he was committed to full transparency, WSVN reported.
“So there’s some details of the investigation that I’ve not disclosed, that I’m unable to disclose right now, and if any of the information that comes up during the investigation rises to a level of criminal behavior or criminal conduct, then we’ll address it appropriately,” the police chief said.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content: