Sarasota Police have put an officer on leave after he was recorded with his knee on a man’s neck.
Video of the incident went viral this weekend as protests occurred nationwide over the death of a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer applied similar force.
Sarasota officials stressed the local incident happened on May 18.
Video published Monday on Facebook showed two officers taking 27-year-old Patrick Carroll into custody and wrestling him to the ground. In doing so, one officer put his knee on Carroll’s neck for an extended period.
A probable cause affidavit describes Officers Martinez and Wicinski as the officers who “escorted Carroll to the ground using minimal force.” Martinez wrote the affidavit. Officer Stanalan, also seen in the video at the end, was also offering support. Police had responded to a domestic situation with Carroll and a woman whose name was redacted from reports.
Carroll ultimately was booked on charges of unlawful possession of ammunition by a felon, as well as charges of domestic battery and resisting arrest with violence against a law enforcement officer.
On Tuesday, aerial video from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office of the incident was also released. The 13-minute video shows Martinez and Wicinski stopping Carroll and talking for several minutes before taking him into custody. Carroll appears to resist being put in a police vehicle, and the two officers wrestle him to the ground while he is in handcuffs and Stanalan comes to assist. Martinez, who appears to be trying to put Carroll in the police vehicle, is the one who ends up with his knee on Carroll’s neck.
Deputy Chief Patrick Robinson said the aerial footage clarified the events leading to the struggle and what happened afterward. That said, it also confirmed that the actions taken went beyond the normal continuum for use of force.
“This use of force is not within our written protocols or training practices,” he said.
The original ground-level video was shared on the Facebook page Qweenii Theroyalfamily, The post included the caption” my Son is on the ground begging asking being mistreated by Three police officers why on the ground. But wait HAND CUFFED”
Sarasota Police in a statement said Police Chief Bernadette DiPino was “disturbed” when she saw the video.
“After viewing several videos, Chief DiPino immediately initiated a formal Internal Affairs investigation and placed the officer on administrative leave,” a department statement reads. “Chief DiPino was disturbed to see an Officer kneeling on the head and neck of an individual in the video. While it appears the Officer eventually moves his leg to the individual’s back, this tactic is not taught, used or advocated by our agency.”
While no formal complaint has been issued about the incident by Carroll or an outside party, the agency said it was taking the incident seriously. Anyone with further information has been encouraged to contact the department.
The tactic sets off alarms as protests broke out nationwide after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd. There, Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder after pinning Floyd to the pavement and putting his knee on the man’s neck until he died.
When asked if the situation in Sarasota would normally prompt an Internal Affairs investigation, Robinson said situations around events always dictate response by law enforcement.
“Everything is taken within context,” he said. “Based on the greater context of what is going on in the country, we want to be aggressive as possible to ensure community safety.”
Along that lines, an investigation will be conducted expeditiously as well, and Robinson hopes results come in before the end of next week.
Martinez has been placed on administrative leave, and the other officers involved in the incident have been reassigned to desk duty for the time being.
Robinson said the greatest concern about use of force involved use of a knee to the neck to constrain somebody.
“That is a very high risk action,” he said. “You have a very hard group of bones in the knee pushing against soft tissue in the neck.”
Carroll did not require medical attention or complain of injuries after the incident. But the image of a white officer holding a handcuffed black man on the pavement stunned viewers just a week after Floyd’s death.
Robinson stressed that the situation ultimately became violent based on the suspect’s actions.
“Unfortunately in this particular instance, the officer on administrative leave went off of what our regiments and use of force continuum is,” Robinson said. “A best case scenario is when an arrested person does not resist. That’s not popular, and I have been criticized for saying it. But if an individual is complying to lawful commands, there is no authority to use force against them.”
Police are asking for further witness video or testimony on the incident.
DiPino this weekend was among numerous law enforcement leaders nationwide condemning Floyd’s death.
“I was shocked and outraged by the actions and conduct of the Minneapolis police officer and the inaction of the other officers I observed on the video. The senseless death of Mr. Floyd is tragic, heartbreaking and never should have happened. We grieve with his family, friends, and his community,” she said in a statement Saturday.
“The men and women of the Sarasota Police Department are not trained to use tactics I’ve seen in the videos in Minneapolis. The actions of the officers in Minneapolis were inexcusable.”