Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Video shows Tampa police officer dragging bound inmate

TAMPA — The police officer said Sonja Mimmenger was smoking crack cocaine and resisting arrest. The Tampa Police Department said that doesn't excuse what the officer did next.

Outside the Hillsborough County jail, Officer Scott Van Treese pulled the 36-year-old woman out of his squad car and laid her on the ground, facedown on her stomach. Her arms and legs were tied.

The officer removed the leg restraints, put away his weapons and talked to the woman. Investigators say he was trying to get her to cooperate. She did not move.

Then Van Treese grabbed Mimmenger's left bicep and pulled her toward the jail's booking area. Her legs were bent at the knee, her shins dragging across the concrete parking lot.

A surveillance camera recorded it all.

He should have asked for help, the police department determined in its internal investigation of the Oct. 5 incident. For that, Van Treese received a written reprimand — and all Tampa police officers got a legal bulletin explaining how to handle resistant prisoners.

In such cases, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, is available to help the booking officer.

Mimmenger was not injured in the dragging, according to police. Tampa Fire Rescue evaluated her at the jail, and she walked in front of paramedics. Still, she was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where, according to police, she told an attending nurse she was faking her injury and did not need to be checked out.

She jumped off a gurney and walked around to prove it, the internal investigation stated.

This video is arguably not the most shocking booking scenario seen on video at the Orient Road jail. In 2008, a sheriff's deputy dumped a quadriplegic man from his wheelchair.

That surveillance video made national news, and since then, the jail has taken more precautions when it comes to inmates in wheelchairs, as well as those resisting arrest. The jail also has medical personnel immediately evaluate each inmate.

According to the internal investigation, completed earlier this month, Officer Van Treese and another officer noticed Mimmenger on the porch of an abandoned house in V.M. Ybor known to attract drugs and gambling.

She previously had trespassed and been arrested at the house. Police know her well — they've had 78 recorded encounters with the woman, who appears to be homeless.

Mimmenger resisted arrest, police said, and Van Treese restrained her legs, handcuffed her arms and put her on her stomach. It's called the TARP position: total appendage restraint position.

That position is allowed. It's the dragging that the police department didn't like.

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