Orlando, Florida — The integrity of the Orlando Police Department is being questioned after the agency purposely withheld evidence from the State Attorney’s Office against one of their officers.
The agency withheld body cam video that showed Orlando Police Officer, William Escobar, punching and kicking a military police officer while he was already handcuffed and on the ground following an illegal arrest.
It all started in March 2014, when police responded to a call about a possible fight between six individuals.
The first paragraph of the police report showed that officers already had a preconceived notion of who they thought they would be dealing with when they responded to the area by stating they knew criminals lived in the area. The officers also claimed that when they arrived on the scene and stepped out of the car, they could smell marijuana in the air. Officer Williams stated, “I am familiar with the odor of cannabis due to my training and experience in street level drugs.” It was later determined there wasn’t any marijuana on the scene.
While on the scene, Officer Williams reported he saw the silhouette of a handgun in the pocket of Verrell Sheals, one of the individuals at the location.
While arresting Sheals, officers reported that Refus Jerome Holloway “charged” officers while his hands were in his pockets. Further in the report, officers contradicted themselves and stated that Holloway’s hands were outside his pockets because he was holding up his military officer ID. Witnesses testified that Holloway did in fact have his hands up, attempting to show the officers his ID. Holloway was asking the officers why his cousin was being arrested.
Officer Williams stated that he took Holloway’s actions as threatening, drew his weapon, and pointed it at Holloway. As Holloway was telling the officer to look at his ID, Officer Williams delivered a front kick to Holloway’s abdomen, at which point Holloway caught the officer’s foot. Holloway immediately released the officer’s foot and began to back away once he realized the officer had lost his balance.
Officer Williams then emptied an entire can of OC spray in Holloway’s face. As Holloway fell to the ground, he was still sprayed. An innocent bystander was also hit in his face by the spray, causing him to fall to the ground as well.
Holloway was then handcuffed and punched by Officer Escobar. Officer Escobar punched Holloway in the back of the head while he was handcuffed and face-down in the dirt. Officer Escobar said, “I am a cop, you understand you stupid mother f***er.” The officer also kicked Holloway.
Holloway can be heard in the video saying, “I didn’t touch you, I didn’t touch you.”
After kicking Holloway, the officer then dragged him and tossed him like a ragdoll.
Officer Williams and Escobar wrote in their police reports that Holloway was punched in the head because he was resisting being handcuffed and tried to stand up. However, when Holloway was punched in the back of the head, he was already handcuffed. Officer Escobar also stated that he kicked Holloway because [he] attempted to kick him.
Holloway said the only time he moved was when he attempted to turn his head to the side because he had been OC sprayed, and could not breathe with his face directly in the dirt.
An investigation reveled that the officer’s police reports were completely fabricated. It was also learned that the officers didn’t even write their own reports. The reports were written by an officer that was not even present at the scene.
Holloway was arrested and charged with Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer based on the arresting officer’s sworn statements.
The State Attorney was forced to drop the charges against Holloway after the 1:49 cell video surfaced in June that contradicted parts of the officer’s police report. The video also prompted prosecutors to ask about body cam video, even though Escobar had put in the police report that there wasn’t any body cam video of the arrest. The incident happened in March, but the body cam video was not presented to prosecutors until October — four months after the cell phone video surfaced.
Escobar has yet to be criminally charged, although prosecutors now say they are considering charges.
The Orlando Police Department refused to supply Ocala Post with the body cam video, citing an open investigation against Officer Escobar.
“Thank you for your inquiry however the case is still active at this time and nothing is being released at this time. Should the information become available it will be released,” Orlando Police Department Public Information Officer, Lieutenant Lovetta Quinn-Henry, wrote in an e-mail to Ocala Post.
An officer with OPD who requested anonymity said, “As of November 24, 2014, Escobar is still on the job at the Orlando Police Department, but is on ‘alternative’ duties.”
In the officer’s reports, they stated that the area is a known drug area and is overridden with criminals; however, Holloway’s family are not the common criminal type.
Holloway has been a military officer for five years and has served overseas twice. His father also owns a very prosperous bail bonds company in the Orlando area. Holloway said the officers clearly had their minds made up before they even arrived. “As soon as they saw me, they profiled me because of what I look like,” Holloway said. “I did not disrespect the officers and I had my hands up with my ID out, I was treated like a criminal. I am a military police officer, I know how to act and respect the law.” Holloway went on to say, “The truth is the reason they concealed the body cam video.”
Holloway went on to say, “How are people supposed to trust the Orlando Police Department if they cover up crimes committed by officers.”
“The integrity of the department has been compromised,” Holloway said.
Officer Escobar has been investigated eight other times for similar disciplinary actions. Each time Escobar was investigated, he was cleared.
The State Attorney’s office claimed the investigation is ongoing.