Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas jail deputy fired after smacking, pinning inmate to ground

LARGO — A Pinellas County detention deputy was fired for smacking an inmate and pinning him to the ground of the jail's booking area, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday.

Deputy Richard Stotts, 48, was fired by Gualtieri on Monday after the findings of an internal affairs investigation were sustained by an administrative review board last week.

On May 8 about 9:30 p.m., Stotts was working in the booking area when a handcuffed David Alan Koons, 38, arrived on charges of disorderly conduct, battery on an officer, and resisting an officer.

Koons was arrested after yelling racial slurs on a PSTA bus and lunging at a Clearwater police officer, according to arrest affidavits.

Inside the booking area, Koons continued yelling profanities and racial slurs, this time toward jail staff. Stotts was working at a counter when Koons arrived. (Stotts and Koons are both white.)

Surveillance video shows Stotts slowly approaching Koons and then abruptly smacking him on the head and neck, wrapping his right arm around his head and pinning him to the ground. Several deputies then intervened.

Supervisors reviewing surveillance video saw the incident, which lasted less than 1 minute, and filed a complaint. Stotts, a 12-year Sheriff's Office employee, later told internal affairs investigators he overreacted and lost his temper, adding that he "perceived" Koons was moving toward him.

"Despite the fact that Koons was running his mouth and he was verbally loud and somewhat abusive, he didn't threaten anybody," Gualtieri said at a news conference Monday. "When you lose your temper and you lose your cool, then you're not going to work here anymore."

Koons of New Port Richey was released from the jail May 17 on $5,250 bail. He was not hurt when Stotts struck him, Gualtieri said. Koons and Stotts could not be reached for comment Monday.

Criminal charges will not be sought against Stotts since Koons has not cooperated with investigators, Gualtieri said. If that were to change, the sheriff said, charges would be considered.

Stotts has been the subject of prior investigations before, Gualtieri said, including some involving improper conduct toward inmates. Those allegations were not sustained.

Stotts' firing is the latest in a string of cases of excessive use of force at the Pinellas County jail.

In June, the Sheriff's Office fired another detention deputy, Elizabeth Kretzer, 40, accused of slapping a female inmate. A criminal investigation is ongoing in that case.

In October, Desmond Quinn, 40, was fired for grabbing a handcuffed inmate by the throat and throwing him to the ground.

Gualtieri said the firings are not related and don't illustrate a problem within the jail.

"We have about 750 deputies that work in the Pinellas County jail, and the absolute majority of them are professional," he said. "We are policing our own."

Times staff researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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