SPRINGFIELD, Fla. – A white Florida police officer was arrested earlier this week for using a stun gun on a black man without sufficient cause, authorities said.
Springfield police officer Ronnie Nelson was arrested Tuesday and charged with a felony count of official misconduct and a misdemeanor count of battery, the Panama City News Herald reported. At the request of Springfield Police Chief Barry Roberts, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation. Springfield is located in the Florida Panhandle near Panama City.
“It’s an embarrassing situation," Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said during a news conference Tuesday. "It’s an infuriating situation from a law enforcement perspective, but we hope that it shows our accountability measures work."
Nelson and a recruit officer were patrolling a main roadway shortly after midnight May 29 when they approached Solomon Smith as he walked down the sidewalk, Ford said. Smith asked the officers why he was being stopped but complied when they asked him for his name, date of birth and Social Security number.
The recruit officer ran the information through a patrol vehicle computer but had misheard Smith’s name, investigators said. The recruit asked Smith why he had provided false information, which led to Nelson pulling out his Taser stun gun and demanding Smith turn around and put his hands behind his back, officials said.
The recruit called for backup, and Nelson deployed his stun gun, Ford said. Based on video taken at the scene, Ford said he believes the stun gun didn’t make full contact. Smith was arrested, but all charges were later dropped.
The encounter between Nelson and Smith came just days after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, prompting peaceful demonstrations, as well as riots, around Florida and the rest of the country.
Jail records didn’t list an attorney for Nelson.