Orlando, Florida — An Orlando police officer was arrested and charged with felony battery Tuesday following allegations that he had used excessive force on a handcuffed man.
It all started in August 2014, when Robert Liese was at Underground Public House, located at 19 South Orange Avenue, Orlando, having some drinks with friends.
According to reports, Liese had several Jack and Cokes totaling $60 when the bartender demanded the tab be paid before any other drinks would be served. Liese then told the bartender that the friend who had invited him was “picking up” the tab. However, Liese’s friend had gone to use the restroom and didn’t return.
Liese told the bartender that since his friend had the money, he could not pay the tab. The bartender then called police.
That is when Orlando Police Officer Peter Delio arrived and the situation “went south.”
In his report, Officer Delio reported he was being nice to Liese and using words like “sir.” Officer Delio wrote in his report: “I asked him, ‘Man, are you going to pay this tab or what?’ To which Liese replied, ‘No, my friends had the money.’”
Officer Delio wrote, “As I spoke with Liese inside the bar, I was able to detect the strong odor of alcohol impurities coming from his person.”
Officer Delio then escorted Liese outside. When Liese didn’t get in the police car fast enough, Officer Delio said, “Look, I don’t have time for this s**t.” Officer Delio then delivered a kick to Liese’s abdomen.
Once at the jail, Officer Delio did not report to anyone that he had kicked Liese in the stomach, not even after Liese had attempted to tell jail employees he was in pain.
Agitated and in pain, Liese demanded an attorney and then busted a window with his head.
Officer Delio then entered the room and delivered what the chief of police called a standard “knee strike” to Liese’s abdomen for a second time.
At no point in Officer Delio’s report did he mention that he had kicked and kneed Liese in the stomach. In the video, Officer Delio can be heard telling Liese to “stop resisting,” which Liese’s attorney said is a term commonly taught in the police academy. The term is often used by officers so they can be heard on audio stating “stop resisting” if a camera is not present.
Officer Delio reported the following happened at the jail:
“Upon arrival Liese continued his aggressive behavior. Once Liese was placed into a interview processing room, he continued to act strange making comments to officers as he was placed into the interview processing room. Once inside Liese then walked up to the window on the door and head butted the glass. As a result of head butting the window, the window broke into numerous pieces. The window broken by Liese is a piece of safety glass, with metal safety wire reinforcing the glass, measuring approximately 10″ x 10″ and approximately ¼” thick.
Damage to the window is estimated at approximately $500.Liese was later transported to Florida South Hospital for medical treatment. Florida South Hospital medical personnel determined for him to be transported to ORMC for further evaluation. The determination of medical staff was for him to be admitted for further treatment.”
Liese was on the floor of the jail cell for two hours before medics were called. And even after medics arrived, officers did not tell them Liese had been hit in the stomach. Instead, officers told medics that Liese was complaining of a headache and chest pain.
What had actually happened was that Liese’s spleen had ruptured, and he was dying on the floor of the cell. Liese’s doctors said that if he had gone another hour without medical treatment, he would have died.
Liese’s attorney, Bill Ruffier, said, “It’s outrageous that police did not direct medics to his abdomen, but instead said he was complaining of a headache and chest pain.”
In February, when the investigation was made public, Orlando Chief of Police John W. Mina said, “Excessive force of any kind or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and the discipline will be severe.”
How severe? Officer Delio was verbally reprimanded and suspended for a week with pay. He was back on the job at the end of that week.
It was not until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement stepped in and filed formal charges against Officer Delio.
A closer look at Officer Delio’s file revealed that he has a habit of excessive force and falsifying reports. In March 2014, Officer Delio snatched law abiding citizen Alberto Troche’s cell phone out of his hand while he was recording an arrest being made by another officer. Officer Delio then arrested Troche. Officer Delio wrote in his report that Troche resisted arrest and refused to relinquish his phone.
In both cases Officer Delio falsified his reports, which did not match up with the video that later surfaced.
Troche’s attorney, Marc Jones, said, “Officer Delio had no right to order anyone to stop taking pictures on a public street or to take Troche’s phone.”
Troche’s attorney said it was even more disturbing that other officers could be heard in the video threatening to take cell phones and arrest anyone that recorded them.
“Loss of personal liberty is a serious thing, and being arrested for legal conduct is just plain wrong,” said Jones.
In both cases, the attorneys said law enforcement officers had better wake up and stop violating citizens’ constitutional rights, especially those who have not committed any crime.
Troche sued the Orlando Police department and won.
In Liese’s case, Officer Delio was relieved of duty with pay, despite being arrested and charged with Felony Battery. He posted a $2,500 bond Tuesday morning.
Liese’s attorney said in both instances, if cameras had not been present, Officer Delio’s reports would have been treated as truthful testimony written under oath.
OPD is also not new to corruption. Ocala Post reported on a case in November in which a different OPD officer assaulted a handcuffed ex-military police officer and then falsified his report.