Deputy now suspended after dumping man from wheelchair

2:41 PM, Feb 12, 2008   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - The Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office held a press conference at 10:30am regarding the deputy who can be seen on video dumping a man in a wheelchair onto the ground.

They've announced that Deputy Charlette Jones has been relieved of her duties without pay pending the outcome of an investigation.  She has not officially been terminated.

Jones has been employed by the Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office since 1996.

Chief Deputy Joe Docobo watched the video for the first time last night and said he found himself in "disgust" and was "appalled at every level."

Docobo also announced that two corporals and a sergeant involved are now on administrative leave with pay, and the jail supervisor on duty did not have knowledge of the incident.

Brian Sterner broke his neck almost 14 years ago and is a quadriplegic.

Sterner, who can drive, was arrested on a traffic violation. When he was booked into the Orient Road Jail last month, Sterner couldn’t believe what happened.

He says a deputy looked at him and didn’t believe he was a quadriplegic. She walked behind him, took the handles on the back of the hospital-grade wheel chair and dumped it forward.

Sterner says he tried to roll as he was going down, but hit so hard he thought he had broken two ribs. Then, while he was on the floor, deputies frisked him and tried to get him back into the chair.

Sterner says he told them how to pick him up and put him back into the chair, but because he can’t feel anything from his breastbone down, he says he was injured and didn’t know it. Sterner thought he had broken two ribs, but jail x-rays showed that wasn't true.

The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office didn't know anything about the incident until we showed them their own tape. Now an investigation is underway.

J.D. Calloway, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, says this has all come to light today, so this review is very active.

While we tried to get a written report about the incident, the major who runs the Orient Road Jail told us there is no incident report, because as far as they are concerned, they didn't have a problem with, or cause a problem to, an inmate in a wheelchair.

But don’t tell that to Brian Sterner.

Sterner says it's incredibly degrading and it’s an example of how poorly trained the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office is. He adds, if they’re trying to figure out if somebody needs to be in a wheelchair or not, there are many other ways to do it than to dump somebody on their face.

Chief Deputy Joe Docobo added at the press conference this morning, the sheriff's office will now try to "make things right for this gentleman."

Mike Deeson, Tampa Bay's 10 News

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