Just three months ago, the Broward (Florida) Sheriff’s Office forked over $350,000 of taxpayers’ money to settle a federal lawsuit over a deputy accused of “striking, pummeling and pounding” a party host in 2009, federal documents obtained by WFOR-TV in Miami.
That deputy — Justin Lambert — on Thursday was reassigned to desk duty on the heels of a surveillance video of a new incident in which he’s accused of using excessive force during an arrest, reported WPLG-TV in Miami.
The sheriff’s office said Lambert and fellow deputy Mike Manresa responded to a Feb. 18 theft complaint at a Deerfield Beach convenience store; the manager, Mohamad Kabir, said a drunk and mumbling man stole candy then tried to get beer, offering his watch as a trade.
When the deputies arrived they zeroed in on David Gonzalez, 50, standing outside the store, reportedly under the influence of alcohol, and “acting very belligerent” toward them.
At one point before his arrest, the complaint affidavit noted, Gonzalez raised his hand and lunged while screaming profanities, adding that Gonzalez was forced to the ground in order to secure handcuffs.
Further the report notes Gonzalez also was combative with fire rescue and medical staff and had to be sedated because of his “belligerent and violent” actions.
But one alleged witness who requested anonymity told WFOR it wasn’t like that.
“He didn’t fight back. He didn’t resist or anything,” the individual told WFOR. “He was drunk, almost unable to stand up on his own, so they beat him up pretty bad for no reason.”
Manresa — also reassigned to desk duty — wrote in his complaint that he and Lambert “escorted” Gonzalez to the ground, WPLG reported.
“He’s thrown onto his face,” Gonzalez’s attorney Eric Rudenberg told the station. “He’s not escorted anywhere.”
Here’s the surveillance clip. Lambert was identified by WPLG as the bald deputy, and he’s standing directly in front of Gonzalez:
Gonzalez was charged with two counts of resisting arrest. WPLG-TV reported that he was knocked unconscious during the incident, suffered a fracture of his left orbital bone as well as a split over his eye that required stitches.
“I’ve never been treated like that in my whole life,” Gonzalez told WPLG in an exclusive interview. “That’s not a way you treat a human being.”
Gonzalez’s attorneys Rudenberg and Mike Glasser told WPLG they are preparing a federal lawsuit against Lambert, Manresa, and the sheriff’s office for false arrest and excessive force.
The sheriff’s office indicated that Tuesday was the first time Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel heard about the incident — although protocol instructs that an investigation should commence within 24 hours.
And while the deputies did file a use of force report, the sheriff’s office said it stayed on the sergeant’s desk.
“So what we’re looking at is ‘why wasn’t the sheriff notified immediately?’ and also ‘why hadn’t the sergeant forwarded that use of force report to his command?’” Veda Coleman-Wright of the sheriff’s office noted to WFOR.
[sharequote align=”center”]”They don’t deserve to wear a badge.”[/sharequote]
In addition the internal investigation is trying to determine why Lambert was allowed back on duty after the lawsuit stemming from the 2009 case, if he and Manresa were justified in using force against Gonzalez, and why Sheriff Israel wasn’t notified about the February incident until this week.
According to WPLG, Lambert was never disciplined or internally investigated for the 2009 incident.
Gonzalez does have other arrests in his past, including resisting arrest; he told WPLG he lost his job since this incident and can’t afford the $30,000 surgery required for his face.
“They don’t deserve to wear a badge,” Gonzalez said of Lambert and Manresa.
This story has been updated.