FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes are calling for an investigation into a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy who was captured on bodycam footage punching a man who was handcuffed to a hospital bed.
The incident occurred Jan. 1 at Broward Health North.
According to a letter from the attorneys that was sent Tuesday to Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, Deputy Jorge Sobrino confronted David O'Connell at a Walmart in Pompano Beach regarding a domestic disturbance.
O'Connell was ultimately arrested on a charge of resisting without violence and was taken to the hospital to be evaluated for injuries he sustained during the incident.
According to the letter, O'Connell told Sobrino he did not want medical attention, yet he was still placed in an examination room and handcuffed to a bed.
The attorneys said O'Connell again waived medical attention when he was seen by medical staff and told them he did not want to wait for a doctor, but he remained handcuffed to the bed and a nurse collected his vital signs and preliminary information.
Sobrino is heard in the bodycam footage telling O'Connell it is the agency's policy to take suspects to a hospital when they are injured and he would have to tell the doctor that he is waiving medical attention once the doctor sees him.
According to the letter, O'Connell told the nurse he needed to urinate and the nurse provided him with a handheld urinal and left the room.
Sobrino stayed in the room as O'Connell kneeled in his bed to use the urinal and did not provide him any assistance, although O'Connell was still handcuffed, the attorneys said.
The bodycam footage shows O'Connell repositioning himself on the bed to apparently avoid some urine that had spilled.
O'Connell is heard in the video telling the deputy he "doesn't want to be here" and "wants to sign out."
Sobrino is seen in the video closing the door to the exam room and telling O'Connell to "Shut up and sit down."
O'Connell seems to taunt the deputy, repeatedly telling him, "F*** you," and asking him, "What, you're going to beat my a** again?"
"What, you think you're all big now because you're a f***ing cop? F*** you," O'Connell is heard telling Sobrino.
Sobrino then appears to throw O'Connell's legs on the bed, punch him in the face and twist his arm behind his back.
***WARNING: Obscene language is used in the video that some viewers may find offensive***
"The body camera video clearly contradicts Deputy Sobrino's sworn police report, wherein he
swears under oath that when he 'approached O'Connell and once I placed his legs back on the
bed, he lifted his free hand and pushed me on my chest, in order to keep me away from him,'" the attorneys' letter to the sheriff stated.
The attorneys said the video never shows O'Connell pushing the deputy in the chest.
According to the attorneys, the video shows "clear police abuse" and a violation of the law, and they are calling for an investigation into the deputy's actions.
BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright released a statement Wednesday, saying "Our Division of Internal Affairs immediately opened a preliminary investigation after receiving a letter today from the Office of the Public Defender lodging a complaint about use of force during an arrest incident that occurred back on Jan. 1, 2019."
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen also released a statement Wednesday, calling on Sobrino to be fired from the agency.
"I was the first to call for the firing of one of the officers involved in the beating of a Delucca Rolle, who put up no resistance. I want the same to happen here. I'm asking for the Sheriff to take immediate action," Bogen said. "There has to be a zero-tolerance policy for abuse and brutality. This is the second time in less than a week, where videotape shows a BSO deputy abusing his power. I am asking the State Attorney's Office to open a criminal investigation into this as well."