BROOKSVILLE — Detention Sgt. David Dixon stood by the inmate just booked into the Hernando County Jail early Tuesday, then out of the blue struck the young man in the head, sending him several steps backward.
The moment, captured on video, was enough to cost the longtime corrections officer both his freedom and his job.
"The guy booked in was just running his mouth, but that's just normal,'' Sheriff Richard Nugent said Friday. "Our guys are taught from the very beginning that you just let it go in one ear and out the other. You don't let it get to you.
"But obviously, Sgt. Dixon let it get to him.''
Dixon, 41, was arrested and fired on Thursday after other jail workers expressed concern about the incident and sheriff's officials questioned the inmate who was struck, 22-year-old Brian McCormack.
McCormack was not injured and a nurse looked at him to be sure he did not need medical care. The incident happened in the booking section of the jail about 6:35 a.m.
McCormack was booked earlier by Brooksville police on a charge of obstruction without violence. He was being moved into the housing unit when Dixon walked up to him and struck him, deputies said.
McCormack was standing still holding his bed roll at the time, according to video from the booking area.
Nugent said that Dixon did not talk to officers, so he didn't know exactly why he reacted the way he did.
"The video speaks for itself,'' Nugent said. "When you're detaining these people, you will have to have total control of your emotions.''
While Nugent said he hated to see a deputy arrested and fired, especially so close to Christmas, he was glad to know the rest of the staff saw the behavior as a serious problem. "We're just not going to tolerate it, and that's the message that has got to be heard loud and clear,'' Nugent said.
Dixon was arrested Thursday at his Hudson home on a battery charge. He was taken to the Pasco County Jail and released on $500 bail.
Dixon was hired in August as Nugent took over operation of the jail from Corrections Corporation of America. Dixon had been working for Bay County since the sheriff there took that jail over from CCA in 2008. Before that, Dixon had worked for CCA in Bay County.
He earned an annual salary of $55,840.98.
Born in Miami, Dixon had worked from 1990-2005 as a detention deputy with the Broward County Sheriff's Office and then retired. In 2007 he worked briefly as a security guard.
On a form that asked if he had previously been disciplined, Dixon responded that he had received written counseling for pepper-spraying an inmate but explained that "too many deputies sprayed at once.''
McCormack had been arrested by Brooksville police at 2:46 a.m. Tuesday on Daffodil Drive where officers were responding to a report of a narcotics overdose. According to the police report, McCormack "refused to allow emergency personnel to treat the victim and had to be physically removed from the area.''
Even after that, "He continued to make threats and attempted to halt their efforts,'' the report states. Officers warned him several times and then arrested him.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.