Ocala Police Department Sgt. Lonnie Freeman was suspended after it was discovered he falsified reports following an unlawful arrest.
In addition to falsifying reports, Freeman is also accused of misleading dispatch and violating the department’s excessive force polices.
On August 27, 2019, Freeman arrested Harry Guy Courtney, a homeless man who was sleeping at a bus stop in front of a Wawa.
Courtney, who was intoxicated was asleep when the officer arrived.
In the video, it can be seen that Courtney is confused as the officer attempts to question him. It was also later determined that Courtney takes medication for mental health reasons do to a previous head injury.
During the encounter, Courtney refers to Freeman as a “cracker.” Freeman then appears to become agitated and throws Courtney to the ground.
Prior to Courtney being taken to the ground, Freeman told him that he would “bust his head wide open.”
An investigative panel with OPD, comprised of three people, found that Freeman violated the use of force policy, misled dispatch, falsified his report, and made an unlawful arrest.
OPD Maj. Lou Biondi, who has been previously named in other lawsuits for violating another officer’s rights as well as conspiring against that female officer, disagreed with the investigators and stated that he feels three of their findings against Freeman were unsubstantiated. Biondi did, however, agree with the unlawful arrest violation.
According to reports, when Freeman told the two men in the video that he could arrest them for open lodging and disorderly intoxication, Freeman was mistaken.
The panel stated that the elements required for the men to be arrested were not present. The statute states that a person would have to not only be intoxicated but also be causing a public disturbance or be a danger to another person. As far as open lodging, the panel stated that there was no cause for the men to be arrested for open logging.
Additionally, Freeman told dispatch he was involved in an altercation with Courtney. This caused officers to respond at high speeds and endanger themselves, and other drivers.
The panel says that Courtney was taken to the ground after he was handcuffed and was not a threat. The panel stated that the body cam video did not support Freeman’s report that Courtney put up a struggle and had to be taken to the ground.
Freeman also wrote in his report that the men were surrounded by beer cans, however, the panel says that was not true.
Along with the charge of Disorderly Intoxication, Freeman charged Courtney with Resisting Arrest with Violence.
All charges against Courtney were dropped and he was released from the Marion County jail.
Freeman has since apologized and said that he did not intentionally mislead anyone.
Freeman had just been promoted to Sgt. He is now suspended for 50 hours without pay.
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