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Former inmate says detention deputy got off too easy

TAMPA — Kenneth Berryhill still blames a Hillsborough County detention deputy for his Dec. 17 spill from a wheelchair, though the Sheriff's Office disputes that.

Berryhill, 33, didn't file a complaint when the incident happened, but he said that's because an internal affairs investigator interviewed him.

After hearing media reports that Detention Deputy Joseph Hickey drew a five-day suspension — faulted only for cursing that day — Berryhill said he's upset. He's considering hiring a lawyer.

"What's five days' suspension without pay?" he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That's a break for him. He ain't got to go to the county jail and babysit all day."

On Friday, the Sheriff's Office completed two internal investigations of wheelchair-related events on Dec. 17. They determined that Deputy Hickey did not cause Berryhill to fall.

Another investigation from an incident later that day determined that Deputy Jonathan Holt used excessive force against inmate Michael Rosario, 19, upset from his wheelchair after the inmate refused to go to bed.

When told of Berryhill's latest comments, the Sheriff's Office said it will let the video of the event speak for itself.

On Friday, the agency reported that on the afternoon of the incident, Berryhill got into an argument with Deputy Hickey at the Falkenburg Road Jail. When he started yelling, Hickey tried moving him to a "timeout" room, but Berryhill locked his brakes. Hickey dragged the chair backward, then set it down, and Berryhill wound up on the floor.

Deputy Hickey and several inmates who witnessed the event told an investigator that Berryhill then began yelling that he would file a lawsuit.

Berryhill said that's not true.

"That wasn't even going through my head," he said. "What was going through my head was me. I was hurting. I was in pain."

Berryhill was in a wheelchair because he had recently undergone surgery on a stab wound to his abdomen, he said.

Berryhill was sentenced to two years in prison in 2001 for grand theft auto and fleeing from a law enforcement officer. He was in jail in December on a violation of probation charge.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Former inmate says detention deputy got off too easy 05/04/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 1:03pm]
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