A Clearwater Police Department officer who was arrested after authorities say he stopped a tourist for jaywalking early Sunday morning, then asked for sexual favors from her in return for giving her a ride and not citing her has been fired, the agency announced Thursday.
Nicolas Paloma, 29, was on duty at Clearwater Beach when he activated the lights in his unmarked police vehicle and stopped the 32-year-old woman as she crossed the road in the roundabout area around 2:30 a.m., according to arrest affidavits. Paloma told the woman she was jaywalking and could be charged with disorderly conduct.
Paloma then told the tourist to get into his car, and she got into the front passenger seat, Clearwater police Chief Eric Gandy said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
“He told her he would take her to her hotel, and she could take care of the charges by doing things for him,” Gandy said. “Officer Paloma even made efforts to defeat our ability to track his vehicle. For approximately 30 minutes, Officer Paloma transported the victim around to various locations on Clearwater Beach, engaged in sex acts with her before dropping her off down the street from her hotel.”
Shortly after she was dropped off, police were called to the woman’s hotel to investigate a report of two women arguing. The tourist was arguing with her friend, and she told officers what happened, Gandy said.
The chief said he was notified early Sunday morning, and a criminal and administrative investigation was launched, and Paloma was placed on leave. On Thursday, the department issued a news release that said Paloma had been fired.
“I’m exceptionally upset about the betrayal of trust — the level of confidence that people have in our officers. It’s exceptionally damaging to our reputation and to the reputation of everyone in law enforcement,” Gandy said Tuesday. “It erodes the confidence in our profession, and on a personal level, I know how hard we struggle to maintain trust. So, for me, having to come here today was infuriating because I have to have this conversation. But it’s an important conversation to have.”
Paloma was arrested Tuesday and booked into a Pinellas County jail, records show. He faces charges of sexual battery by a law enforcement officer and false imprisonment.
Paloma, who has been with the department since 2018, hasn’t had any previous disciplinary history, according to the agency. But they say it’s possible that Paloma may have done something similar in the past, and they are asking anyone who might know anything about any other cases to call the Clearwater Police Department at 727-562-4385.
“We have to proceed in the abundance of caution,” Gandy said. “This is a guy who, under the color of law, took this action, and we have to be very careful to ensure that we don’t have anyone else out there. We just don’t know at this juncture.”