Daytona Beach, Florida — Ocala Post has now received the body cam video of two Daytona Beach Police Officers, following the completion of an Internal Affairs investigation.
On June 13, 2013, Officers Justin Ranum and Matthew Booth encountered Ms. Christine Chippewa, 36, (complainant) near the boat ramps of the Seabreeze Bridge (eastern span).
Chippewa was alone in her boyfriend’s vehicle and appeared to have mechanical issues. The officers spoke to Chippewa and established that she was not in medical distress. This interaction was captured on Officer Ranum’s Mobile Video Recorder (MVR).
Approximately ten to fifteen minutes after speaking with Chippewa, the officers noticed she continued to have issues with her vehicle. The officers re-approached Chippewa because they felt her behavior was suspicious. Chippewa said she realized the car was not out of gas as she originally suspected and she had forgotten to press in the clutch.
During the second contact with Chippewa, Officer Ranum began to question why she was really at the boat ramp. Officer Ranum asked for and received oral consent to search Chippewa’s vehicle and her purse. Officer Booth began searching Chippewa’s vehicle as Officer Ranum began searching her purse.
While Officer Booth was searching Chippewa’s boyfriend’s vehicle, Officer Ranum stated that he observed Chippewa unbutton her shorts and wrote in his offense report that he felt like she was trying to hide something. Officer Ranum approached Chippewa and asked if she had anything in her shorts. As Chippewa answered “no”, she turned her pockets inside out. Officer Ranum wrote in his report he saw a “large bulge” in Chippewa’s left cheek area. Officer Ranum asked Chippewa what was in her mouth and she said “nothing.” Officer Ranum stated that he then asked to see inside of her mouth, at which time Chippewa opened her mouth and Officer Ranum says he saw what he suspected was illegal narcotics. Officer Ranum reported Chippewa began trying to chew and swallow the substance. Officer Ranum stated that he told Chippewa to spit out the substance and she attempted to pull away from him.
Officer Ranum said he took hold of Chippewa to keep her from “tampering with evidence.” Officer Ranum took the defendant to the ground to gain better control over her in an attempt to retrieve the alleged narcotics. The struggle between Officer Ranum and Chippewa continued as Officer Booth ran over and assisted Officer Ranum.
Officer Ranum also wrote that the incident was captured on his MVR, but in actuality only the last few moments of the encounter were captured due to the fact his body cam had been shut off.
While the body cam was turned off, Officers Ranum and Booth continued to press Chippewa’s face into the pavement while they squeezed her cheeks in an attempt to open her mouth and retrieve the alleged narcotics. While Officer Booth was squeezing her cheeks she clamped down with her teeth. Officer Booth wrote in his report that when she clamped down it caused him pain, so he kicked her in the head.
When Chippewa would not open her mouth, Officer Booth took his department issued flashlight and jammed it in her mouth while simultaneously sticking his fingers in her mouth. Officer Booth referred to it as the “flashlight technique.” At some point Officer Booth removed the flashlight and Chippewa’s teeth made direct contact with Booth’s fingers. Booth said he then removed his fingers from her mouth and did not locate any narcotics. When Officer Booth removed his fingers he had blood and saliva on them, he then wiped his fingers on Chippewa’s sweatshirt.
The Internal Affairs report reads as follows:
Directive 1006 defines an officer’s use of deadly force as: “Deadly Force: Techniques used as a last resort, which may result in imminent death, great bodily harm, or permanent disfigurement, such as the use of a firearm or impact weapon strikes to the head.”
The investigator noted that knee strikes and kicks to the head are prohibited by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as well as Daytona Beach Police Department policy, unless, “A subject makes overt, hostile, attacking movements with or without a weapon with the intent and apparent ability to cause death or great bodily harm to the officer or others.”
He also noted that using forceful techniques such as knee strikes, kicks, impact weapons or any other physical force that could cause bodily harm, cannot be used simply because a citizen would not comply with the orders of a law enforcement officer.
Officer Anthony Galante with the Daytona Beach Police Department, and certified FDLE defensive tactics trainer, told investigators that an officer should never use knee strikes except when deadly force is authorized. He also stated that it is extremely dangerous and very hazardous for an officer to stick their fingers in a suspects mouth.
During the investigation it was learned that Officer Booth expressed some concern to Officer Ranum, and told Ranum he was worried about what occurred because this was a “use of force incident” and they did not recover any evidence.
Officer Ranum asked Officer Booth if he had completed his report. Officer Booth said, “I’m not writing anything until you write yours because God forbid we write something in the least bit different.” Officer Booth said in his interview that he wanted to “rehash the incident with Officer Ranum and make sure all of their ducks are in a row” before writing his report. Officer Booth indicated that he wanted to make sure they both remembered the incident correctly before writing his report. Officer Booth also said his supervisor was meticulous about accurate report writing and he wanted to make sure that he and Officer Ranum “were both on the same page”.
Officer Justin Ranum resigned while being the subject of this investigation. His resignation took place on July 31, 2013.
Officer Booth was terminated at the conclusion of this investigation for:
- Failing to Acknowledge and Adhere to Laws and Directives
- Making False Statements
- Conduct in Arresting and Dealing with Law Violators
- Use of Force (Strikes to the Head)
- Unauthorized Actions Regarding Use of Force
Chippewa was transported to the hospital the night of the incident, however it was determined that she did not need to be treated for ingesting a narcotic.
She was, however, treated for a bloody mouth (split lip), abrasions (road rash) to the face, injuries to the torso and a knot on her head from being kicked.
Officer Booth admitted that he did not actually see any narcotics in Chippewa’s mouth.
Officers that arrived on the scene the night of the incident testified that Chippewa did not appear to be impaired in any way and was extremely cooperative. Officers did state during interviews that Chippewa looked “rough” from her injuries.
“We don’t break the law to enforce the law. And I don’t tolerate excessive force,” said Chief Mike Chitwood, Daytona Beach Police Department.
Chief Mike Chitwood said the investigation first caught his eye when it was discovered there may have been a possibility the officers turned off their body cams.
“We believe Officer Booth’s actions and the injuries that this woman suffered are conducive to excessive force. That’s not how we operate. We don’t just jam flashlights down their throats, jam fingers down there and everything else,” said Chief Chitwood.
Chief Mike Chitwood also said that all officers are required to wear body cams and keep them on at all times.
In recent interviews with Dayton Beach residents, Chief Mike Chitwood was praised. The chief is known for his no nonsense attitude and a by-the-book kind of guy. Chitwood says he does not allow his officers to violate citizens constitutional rights, he wants the public to have trust in the police.
Chief Mike Chitwood has also been known to leave his desk and patrol the streets of Daytona. He does not believe in just sitting behind the desk he says. He also participates in bicycle patrol with his officers. He says he would not make his officers do something that he would not do himself.
Chippewa was charged with Resisting Arrest and Tampering With Evidence, those charges were later dismissed.