Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas deputy arrested for striking teenage inmate (with video)

LARGO — A Pinellas County deputy was arrested Monday for striking a 15-year-old inmate last summer and lying about his motives, marking the fifth dismissal of a county deputy in six months.

Joel De Los Reyes, 51, hit the teenage inmate for "mouthing off," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters at a news conference Monday. Another deputy, Adrian Nenu, was suspended for not reporting his colleague's use of excessive force.

"I'm sorry it happened," Gualtieri said. "I'm sorry our people did something like this."

De Los Reyes was assigned to supervise a juvenile pod in the south division of the Pinellas County Jail last summer, when internal investigators say he got in a "verbal exchange" with inmate Steven Valentin about whether or not to keep the television on. Valentin was charged as an adult with a federal robbery.

The deputy then removed Valentin from his cell, walked him over to the day room, and pushed him on to a table. He began escorting Valentin toward a door where Nenu was standing; as they reached the door, De Los Reyes struck Valentin with his knee and then his elbow.

"You can see where he just loses it," Gualtieri said as reviewed surveillance video of the Aug. 31 confrontation. "He knees him and then he hits him in the back."

Neither deputy reported the confrontation. When Lieutenant Sara Spiva saw the men walking with Valentin, De Los Reyes told her there had been "horseplay" while Nenu remained silent.

"I think that — I can't say exactly what he was thinking, but he probably felt it was Deputy De Los Reyes' obligation to tell me what had happened. That in no way occurred," Spiva told investigators.

Investigation files say this all happened in a unit for boys who behave well — a "more desirable pod," according to Spiva. The inmates watch television and movies and play video games, and they attend school.

It happened that there was a disciplinary review hearing scheduled for Valentin that night. There, Valentin reported De Los Reyes had hit him. He did not sustain injuries, Gualtieri said.

De Los Reyes initially told investigators that Valentin was noncompliant and that he'd used a "guiding" touch.

"It's a work of fiction and it didn't happen," Gualtieri said. "To think you're going to get away with it is just crazy and stupid."

De Los Reyes later admitted the use of force was not justified, and resigned under investigation. He blamed his own anger management issues and tunnel vision. He was released on bond Monday.

Nenu received a seven-day suspension for not immediately reporting the incident, though Spiva credited him for stopping De Los Reyes from hitting the inmate again.

De Los Reyes had been with the sheriff's office for seven years to Nenu's 25. The sheriff's office is not pursuing child abuse charges because Valentin, who is now 16, was booked as an adult.

Gualtieri emphasized that the jail houses 3,000 inmates, with 750 deputies on hand. "We're a big agency with 3,000 people and things happen," he said.

Still, he said he was disappointed. De Los Reyes is the fifth deputy since June reported to have either have been fired or to have resigned under pressure.

Deputy Elizabeth Kretzer was fired in June for hitting a female inmate in the head after the inmate, angry over a food tray, flipped her off.

In November, Deputy Paul Martin was fired for making inappropriate comments to a 17-year-old girl during a sexual battery investigation. His line of questioning included anal sex, and he asked "are you into girls too," topics irrelevant to the investigation.

Later that month, two deputies resigned under investigation after one of them punched an inmate in the face. Both Mark Capanna and Klaus Reinert failed to report the incident, then denied a physical altercation in fabricated reports. In one variation of the story, Reinert said he had slipped and fallen on a wet floor.

"I hope it stops. I want it to stop," Gualtieri said Monday. "One is too many of these things."

Contact Lisa Gartner at lgartner@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

Pinellas deputy arrested for striking teenage inmate (with video) 02/24/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 12:18am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  2. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  4. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.

  5. Tom Jones' Two Cents: Bucs, Jaguars both get blame for terrible preseason ratings

    TV and Radio

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst of a weekend in televised sports.

    Worst matchup

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) tries to get past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Brian Dixon (41) and safety Barry Church (42) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) JVS119