A Broward Sheriff’s deputy seen in body camera footage punching a suspect who was handcuffed to a hospital bed is facing a battery charge in the incident, officials said Friday.
The misdemeanor charge was filed against Deputy Jorge Sobrino in the January 1 incident at Broward Health North, the Broward State Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The allegations stem from the arrest of 27-year-old David Rafferty O’Connell on charges of disorderly conduct, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer without violence.
Sobrino’s body cam footage shows the deputy with O’Connell at Broward Health North after O’Connell was arrested at a Walmart in Pompano Beach. An arrest report said O’Connell and a woman were arrested at the Walmart after they were suspected of trying to fraudulently return ink cartridges.
In the footage, O’Connell repeatedly says he wants to leave the hospital, but Sobrino tells him that he has to be medically cleared per department policy. O’Connell has his right hand handcuffed to a hospital bed while he waits for a doctor to examine him.
At one point, O’Connell has to urinate and kneels in the bed to use a urinal. The Broward Public Defender’s Office said O’Connell inadvertently spilled urine on himself and the bed and had to re-position himself to avoid the urine.
After that, O’Connell gets back on his knees and again says that he doesn’t want to stay in the hospital and starts cursing at Sobrino, the video shows. Sobrino then moves in, punches O’Connell, and handcuffs his other arm to the bed.
“While awaiting medical clearance, the defendant began yelling inside the hospital and attempting to stand from his hospital bed. When attempting to seat the defendant down on the hospital bed and further restrain him, the defendant intentionally placed his hand on my upper chest against my will and pushed me, there for [sic] committing a battery against my person,” Sobrino wrote in the arrest report.
In a letter sent to Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony back in April, Broward public defender Howard Finkelstein and executive chief assistant public defender Gordon Weekes said O’Connell didn’t push Sobrino in the chest.
“Deputy Sobrino’s version of the incident vastly differs from the facts as displayed in the video. The video shows clear police abuse,” the letter reads. “Deputy Sobrino punched Mr. O’Connell in the face without physical provocation because he was frustrated with Mr. O’Connell. Punching a restrained individual who is not physically aggressive is unacceptable.”
Weekes said prosecutors dropped the battery on a law enforcement officer charge against O’Connell on the day trial was supposed to start. The only charge that remains is a resisting arrest charge from the incident at Walmart.
BSO officials said Sobrino, 24, who has been with the department since January 2015, was immediately suspended without pay Friday.
“Until Deputy Sobrino’s criminal case is concluded, BSO’s Internal Affairs case remains open. Per Florida Statute 112.532(6)(a)2, the internal affairs administrative investigation is ‘tolled’ or deferred until the criminal proceeding is resolved,” BSO said in a statement.