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Police officer charged in suspect's beating

A videotape mailed anonymously to officials appears to show him hitting a handcuffed man repeatedly with a baton.

A videotape mailed anonymously to City Hall has led to criminal charges against a police officer who was taped as he appeared to beat a handcuffed man at least 16 times with a baton.

Officer Stephen Danner, 33, was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday after being charged with battery in the Dec. 7 incident, police Chief William Smith said Thursday.

A disciplinary hearing will be held Monday to consider an internal affairs report recommending that Danner be fired for violating rules on use of force.

The videotape shows Danner repeatedly swinging his baton with two hands, presumably at 19-year-old David Weiler, who was lying on the ground handcuffed. A hedge partially blocks the view, so Weiler's body is not seen.

"I was shocked," Smith said. "And I recognized the use of force was inappropriate for the circumstances."

Smith said Weiler, who was taken away in an ambulance to be involuntarily committed for a psychiatric evaluation, suffered bruises but no serious injuries.

Danner's attorney, Scott Richardson, said his client's actions were justifiable.

"When all the facts are presented, we'll be able to show Officer Danner did not have any criminal intent to commit a crime but was simply doing what he needed to do to secure this individual," Richardson said.

Danner and two other officers had been called to a residential neighborhood about a bothersome stranger.

The videotape, which was mailed to City Hall two months later, shows a shirtless Weiler wandering through yards and driveways.

The chief said officers said the 19-year-old "was irrational and incoherent at times . . . shouting some things that did not make sense."

According to the internal affairs report, Weiler was handcuffed but refused to get into the back of a patrol car and got into an altercation with Danner.

The tape shows Danner spraying Weiler in the face and on the back of the head with pepper mace.

Danner then "forcibly threw (Weiler) to the ground," the report said, and struck him at least 16 times with his baton.

Meanwhile, someone was taping the arrest from a car parked nearby.

The tape was mailed along with an anonymous letter to City Hall and eventually turned over to Smith.

The chief said he could not tell from the tape if the other two officers tried to stop the beating. They have not been charged.

Danner became a police officer in 1994 after nine years as a civilian parking enforcement officer.

Weiler, of Jupiter, was released from jail in August 1998 after serving two years for armed burglary and grand theft with a firearm, according to the state Department of Corrections.