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Sheriff fires deputy for abusive behavior

A five-year veteran of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office was fired last month for a pattern of abusive behavior.

In the termination letter, Sheriff Tom Mylander said traffic deputy Jeffrey Batiste's actions showed an "obvious disregard for the citizens of the county" and called the pattern of behavior "totally unacceptable."

Batiste, who was fired April 24, has had problems with the Sheriff's Office for the past year _ the most recent incident being an excessive use of force charge involving a 16-year-old.

Batiste pulled over Brian Gomes, of Spring Hill, for failing to yield near Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard on March 20. Batiste then arrested Gomes on a charge of driving with a restricted license.

While searching Gomes, who was handcuffed, Batiste said he was forced to throw the juvenile onto the asphalt for repeatedly tensing up and hindering the search. Batiste told the investigator that he thought Gomes was going to kick him or run away. Gomes received treatment at Oak Hill Hospital for cuts to his face and legs.

"I'm familiar with Mr. Gomes," Batiste told the investigator during a formal interview. "He has a history in the past of running from us."

The investigation concluded that there was no need to use such force in dealing with a much smaller and handcuffed man. Batiste could not be reached for comment.

Batiste's problems began last year when he was investigated for three separate incidents.

In 1997, he was suspended for five days without pay for abuse of power. Batiste, who was separated from his wife at the time, was accused of ticketing a man he thought was dating his wife. He was also investigated for an incident in which he was accused of threatening his wife and her boyfriend.

He was cited in June 1997 for failing to appear at a scheduled court date. A couple of months later, he was investigated after residents had complained about his actions during traffic stops.

"The (past) disciplinary action apparently did not persuade him to exercise the authority of his position in a proper manner," Mylander wrote.

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