Marco police officer charged with battery

A Marco Island police officer who helped break up a drunken melee outside a bar in February was charged with battery Tuesday after it was revealed that he struck two of the men he arrested and used pepper spray on them while they were handcuffed in the back of his squad car.

A State Attorney’s Office investigator served a summons to Officer Stephen Mariani on Tuesday, charging him with battery, a first-degree misdemeanor. He wasn’t arrested.

The charge dates back to a fight outside the Off the Hook Comedy Club at Capt. Brien’s, at 599 S. Collier Blvd., during the winter, according to the state attorney’s office.

About 11 p.m. on Feb. 16, Mariani responded to the club at the request of an employee who learned that a group of 24 people with tickets waiting to enter the club had been kicked out of another bar, according to an arrest report from that night.

Mariani told the group that if there was a disturbance, the group would be ejected from the club.

About 15 minutes later, after being asked three times to behave, the members of the group were asked to leave the club and board their chartered bus, reports said. At that time, an off-duty officer, Hector Diaz, responded to the scene to assist Mariani.

Most of the group boarded the bus at the officer’s request.

The two officers then were confronted by four members of the group, identified as Adrian Polanco, 20, of 3625 Poinsettia Ave., No. 1, East Naples; Christopher Raymond Caprari, 21, of 236 Pine Valley Circle, East Naples; Jason Bocardo, 19, of 2584 Ponce De Leon Drive, East Naples; and Anthony Pedro Blanco, 18, of 4613 Lombardy Lane, Marco Island, police reported in February.

When Diaz identified himself as an officer and reached into his pocket to get his badge, Caprari swung and punched him in the arm, reports said.

Bocardo then grabbed Diaz by the neck and put him in a choke hold before the officer fell to the ground, reports said.

Mariani attempted to help but was pushed and punched by Blanco. He was able to handcuff Blanco, but was then pushed by Polanco, police said. At that point several other Marco Island police units, and with the assistance of several citizens, were able to handcuff and arrest the four men.

While being transported from the Marco Island Police Department to the Naples Jail Center, three of the men, who were handcuffed in the back of Mariani’s squad car, were verbally abusive, thrashed about and hit their heads against the vehicle’s interior, Marco Island spokeswoman Lisa Douglass said.

“In an attempt to regain control, the officer stopped the vehicle, got out, and opened the rear door as the subjects attempted to exit,” Douglass said. “He struck two of them. He then used pepper spray to control their violent behavior.”

The next day Mariani reported the encounter in his squad car, which was caught on tape, Douglass said.

“I think what is good ... is that happened on the 16th (of February). On the 17th he came in and said, ‘I didn’t handle myself very well,’ ” Douglass said. “That’s what prompted our administrative review and immediately we turned it over to the state attorney’s office.”

A review of the encounter resulted in Mariani being placed on an administrative suspension, Douglass reported.

Mariani, who earns $50,603 a year, started with the Marco Island Police Department in May 2006 after retiring from a 20-year career as a sergeant with the New York City Police Department.

His arraignment is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on July 2 in Collier County court.

“There is a fine line between excessive force and maintaining control,” Douglass said.

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Comments » 10

talktome writes:

This officer is a good guy. Hopefully the state will drop charges like they do with real criminals.

JohninMarco writes:

The incident occurred in Feb and he just getting charged in June, why?

hourigan82247 writes:

Talktome- Stop kissing up to the cops. Just go to the Dunkin Donuts and buy them coffee. And then come over to Tara's and pay for my dinner YOU DUMMY!!!

August8 writes:

A number of questions arise based on this article that may, or may not have been answered in the formal investigation? Let's see:

.It appears that the officers were the initial victims in this case and all acted very appropriately!

.An incident of such significance should have had supervisory (actual) present at the scene,was this the case?This would be supervision that is compensated and responsible for the actions of police officers in the performance of their duties, does not include acting supervision or Corporals.

.After the apprehension and arrest, and transport to the Police Station, senior supervision should have been present, and if not contacted to respond?

.At the Police Station, this is where the management and administrative review should have commenced to avoid just the type of situation that eventually resulted in the mis-fortune for this officer?

.When the administrative detail was completed at the Police Station, and the offenders were then transported to the booking facility, why were all three combative subjects transpoted together in one Police Vehicle by one officer? To make matters worse, by an officer that had been assaulted by these same people earlier that night? This was a huge mistake, placed this officer in a very bad position and should have been controled and supervised by senior police management?

.Finally, Why was this officer that made a statement that he had made a mistake not offorded representation that would have protected his due process, another huge mistake?

.In closing, a series of errors may have occured that may provide this employee with a sound defense in conection with his unfortunate and possibly excessive arrest.If this officer is wise, he will now think this situation through a little more clearly, always take responsiblity for his actions, but ensure that the agency was protecting his rights and not placing him in an very bad situation that produced a bad result.He should be aware of the civil remedies available for these mistreated offenders and how the agency has side stepped some responsibility for what occured.There is some history of arresting officers in some circumstances after these things happen instead of management intervention at a point that may avoid arrest and and simply require normal administrative actions?
Please excuse spelling errors?

happy6 writes:

i would have to side with the police officer reading this article...i doubt any one of us could maintain control in a situation such as this...hopefully he is cleared of these charges...but if he is guilty then the old adage one is above the law...will prevail.

MarcoMaven writes:

The officer acted with enormous restraint in my opinion. I personally would have shot the punks, in the knee...and they would forever remember their visit to Marco Island.

steelstreet writes:

Hey JohninMarco,

Why dont you ask the State Attorney's office why THEY took so long. I read the article to say the police department sent the report to the State Attorney's office following the incident.

So I would ask the State Attorney Prosecutor why HE/SHE took so long. This is normal with them.

dru6961386 writes:

I suppose Officer Mariani might have said "come on boys, you know thats not nice", and the perpetrators would have replied "Gee Officer, we're sorry, we shouldn't have grabbed your fellow officer in a chokehold, and shouldn't have acted so ugly when we were arrestd". Come on folks, these officers were just doing their jobs with a bunch of wild ones who fancied themselves mean hombres.

jronan28327#212016 writes:

Here we go again a good Police Officer in trouble for doing a great thankless job. This outstanding Officer should get the Police Officer of the month award.I guess it's time to move out of Marco and turn it over to the DRUNKS and DRUGGIES and let the place turn to ????. Shame on you.

Rachael writes:

beating them and pepper spraying them after they are handcuffed and in the back of the police car is excessive.

if he had done this in order to get them cuffed and into the car, that would be a whole different story...

That being said, the punk kids probably had it coming to them.

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