Caught on surveillance video punching a handcuffed inmate in the face, a Florida corrections deputy recently resigned from the department before an internal investigation concluded. After the deputy reportedly gave false statements to investigators, the sheriff’s office has recommended criminal charges to the state attorney’s office.
Around 1 a.m. on August 4, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Louis Valentin removed inmate Lashard McCullough from his cell after McCullough began yelling and causing a disturbance. As Deputy Valentin attempted to place McCullough in a pod within the Disciplinary Exercise Yard, the handcuffed inmate held onto the door to prevent Valentin from locking it.
Recorded on a jail surveillance video, Valentin suddenly entered the pod and punched McCullough in the face while slamming him against the wall before exiting the pod and locking the door behind him. According to an internal affairs report, Valentin initially claimed that he assaulted McCullough because the inmate spat on his face.
McCullough denied spitting in the deputy’s face, and the video does not appear to show the inmate spitting on the deputy. Valentin later changed his story by telling investigators that McCullough had emanated “unintentional spittle” towards him.
Shortly after the internal affairs department launched an investigation into the incident, Valentin resigned on August 8. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has recommended to the state attorney’s office that he be charged with battery.
“This is not how our deputies are trained, and this type of behavior will not be tolerated at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Rick Wells stated. “Standards are in place to prevent incidents like this from happening, but when a deputy or employee fails to follow our rules they will face consequences for their actions, to include termination and criminal prosecution. Recently, there has been a pattern of abusive conduct among a small percentage of the approximately 300 corrections employees, of which those four have been criminally charged. This culture has been identified, and all deputies in our Corrections Bureau are currently going through additional training.”
Last month, former deputy Paul Wagner was sentenced to four months in jail after assaulting an inmate and breaking his nose and teeth. On May 10, deputy Daniel Bower resigned after internal affairs investigators concluded he engaged in unlawful conduct and conduct unbecoming a deputy after allegedly using excessive force against an inmate.
On April 24, Deputy Tyler Lemond was fired after an internal affairs investigation concluded he had used excessive force against an inmate. The state attorney’s office charged Lemond with misdemeanor battery.
The sheriff’s office concluded, “Valentin abandoned his sworn pledge of service to the community, and blemished the integrity of not only the deputies with which he served, but all law enforcement officers sworn to protect and defend the constitutions of both the State of Florida, and the United States of America.”