Collier Deputies Cleared of Misconduct in Incident Outside the Pub
Published on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 01:07
An internal investigation by the Collier County Sheriff's Office has cleared seven deputies of all misconduct charges related to a rowdy incident outside The Pub of Ave Maria in late September.
The incident began after midnight Saturday, Sept. 28, when a deputy working a paid detail attempted to help a female AMU student who was described as being "severely intoxicated." After a crowd of students formed outside the pub the deputy called for backup and before things settled down, two AMU students were arrested for resisting deputies.
An AMU student, Carolina Enzler, made a formal complaint to the CCSO Professional Responsibility Bureau (PRB) alleging misconduct by deputies who she said used unnecessary force in making the arrests, mistreated the intoxicated student, threatened the crowd and used profanity.
The PRB completed its investigation of the incident in March, with the bureau's Lt. Richard Gibbons writing, "In totality it appears the actions of the deputies on scene were lawful, reasonable and within policy."
According to the PRB's report, the incident outside the pub began around 12:45 a.m. after the intoxicated student left the pub, where she had come after attending a student party in the Middlebrooke neighborhood of Ave Maria. That party broke up when police were called to investigate reports of an intoxicated male student vandalizing cars and threatening residents. When she left the pub, she was observed to be too intoxicated to walk. The deputy on duty, Cpl. Kenneth Towler, had just dealt with some students who were drinking illegally behind the pub when he saw the student struggling with a male on the lawn behind the oratory.
"Cpl. Towler had two concerns at this juncture," wrote Lt. Gibbons, "that [the student] was so intoxicated that she required medical attention and that there existed the possibility that [the other person] had, or was about to commit a crime."
As Cpl. Towler investigated, Lt. Gibbons said, an "intoxicated crowd of students then began to hurl verbal insults at Cpl. Towler therefore he called for additional units."
One of the deputies responding, Cpl. Sherry Anderson, reported that when she arrived the student was yelling incoherently while flailing her arms and kicking and for the protection of those around, she handcuffed the student so she could safely be taken from the scene to await the arrival of EMS. She said she recognized the student and "could recall three previous contacts with her in the past that related to her being under the influence of alcohol or some other unknown drug."
Several charges were made regarding the treatment of the intoxicated student. The PRB report found:
- There was no evidence that the intoxicated student was left alone lying on her back, an allegation made most recently by AMU President Jim Towey at an informational meeting with Del Webb residents in March. Cpl Towler, who had medical training in the armed forces and had worked as an EMT, said he did not allow the student to lie down because it would be unsafe. The report also says a video shows that "prior to being moved, [the student] was upright on her knees not lying on her back as had been suggested."
- Evidence did not support assertions that actions by deputies caused serious harm to the student, including a concussion. The report noted that the student stumbled while being helped to a patrol car and submitted photos showing "mild abrasions to her forehead and bruising on her arms." The report said it is not clear, however, how she sustained those injuries. Deputies said they were told she was in an altercation inside the pub and the PRB report said that the pub has a video recording system inside. Deputies who asked to view the tapes were initially told by the manager that he would have to check with the owners, but a few weeks later the manager said no recordings were available. The student was asked if she would provide medical records showing evidence that she suffered a concussion, but she declined to do so.
- The report noted numerous inconsistencies in the account provided by Miss Enzler.
- Regarding other suggestions that the intoxicated female student was mistreated, Lt. Gibbons said, "There is no evidence in the file that [the student] was dragged, handcuffed by deputies."
The report found that the deputies involved in the arrest of two male students, both of whom were charged with resisting a law enforcement officer, were restrained in their handling of both students and that officers used their discretion not to charge either student with more serious offenses. The report said that both students apologized en route to booking, and the state attorney's office declined to prosecute the cases.
In addition to charges of unnecessary force, the complaint by Miss Enzler also said that police were disrespectful and used profanity. The PRB reports that these allegations are not supported by any recordings of the incident, which include video taken by a student as well as audio recordings made by some of the deputies who were wearing microphones. The report notes, however, frequent use of profanity by students who were part of "a rowdy, intoxicated crowd who were verbally taunting [the deputies]."
The Sheriff's Office also investigated misuse of 911 by students after the incident, reporting that several students had called 911 to report "thugs were in police uniforms" and were "kidnapping students," police were "tackling people walking back to their dorms," and that deputies were "dragging drunk people on their faces." The students were warned and instructed to discontinue misuse of the 911 system.