A Marco Island police officer was fired recently after an internal investigation found he filed inaccurate reports after a late-night arrest turned into a brawl at a local restaurant.
Officer John Derrig, 27, who has a history of having complaints filed against him, also failed to follow his supervisor’s orders, according to a Marco Island Police internal investigation obtained by the Daily News as a public records request. Derrig was terminated on Dec. 10.
His attorney, Russell Kirshey, said he intends to file a grievance with the department in an attempt to get Derrig his job back.
“It’s a very, very harsh reaction,” Kirshey said of Derrig’s firing.
Derrig’s termination stems from an arrest he made of George Channing Dascoulias on Sept. 28, and a subsequent complaint filed by Dascoulias.
In his complaint, Dascoulias, 28, wrote that a little before 2 a.m. on Sept. 28, he entered the Marco Town Centre Plaza to find a friend and give him a ride home. Dascoulias entered the Crazy Flamingo restaurant to use the restroom, according to the complaint.
“I entered the restroom and just seconds after doing so the bathroom door was forcefully opened and I was struck in the face/mouth by Officer John Derrig,” Dascoulias wrote. “I was then struck multiple times by closed fists and elbows while bleeding from my mouth profusely.”
Dascoulias wrote that a second officer, Kevin Henning, then entered the restaurant and “began to attack, assault me as well.”
“At no time did either person identify themselves,” Dascoulias wrote.
Derrig, who had previously arrested Dascoulias on drug charges, had a different account.
He told investigators that he and Henning were parked in their respective vehicles and talking when he noticed Dascoulias exit a vehicle, approach a closed restaurant, and peer into the windows, according to reports.
“He was looking around ... his head on a swivel, seeing if we were paying attention to him,” Derring told investigators.
Derrig told investigators he drove toward Dascoulias and called out his name. Dascoulias acknowledged Derrig by looking at him, and then walked “swiftly” across the parking lot and into the Crazy Flamingo, reports said.
Derrig said he entered the restroom about 10 seconds after Dascoulias, and found him kneeling on the ground facing the toilet and garbage can with his sneakers off. Derrig said that Dascoulias discarded an object in the garbage can.
Derrig told investigators that he didn’t knock on the restroom door and did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer.
“He jumped up and drove his shoulder into my stomach area, pinning me against the wall area,” Derrig said.
Henning entered the restaurant and helped Derrig in the scuffle with Dascoulias. They eventually handcuffed Dascoulias, and arrested him on one charge each of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, possession of narcotic paraphernalia, and criminal mischief. Derrig said he found two oxycodone pills on the floor, and an oxycodone vial issued to Dascoulias and a syringe plunger cover in the garbage.
Derrig said that Henning found a syringe in Dascoulias’ shoe, and another officer found a syringe in Dascoulias’ car. But reports say Dascoulias had a legal prescription for the oxycodone and Derrig failed to connect the syringe to a controlled substance.
Charges that Derrig violated department policies regarding general authority, use of force, and physical force could not be substantiated and were not sustained by Chief Thom Carr, according to an internal affairs file memo. Similar charges against Henning were also not sustained.
However, Carr sustained charges that Derrig violated department polices regarding truthfulness in report writing and insubordination. Attempts to reach Carr for comment by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful Friday.
According to the investigation, Derrig deliberately failed to attach two photographs of Dascoulias — including a “bloody face” photo — to his case file, despite instructions to do so by his sergeant.
He also failed to utilize a recording device, despite previous directions by his sergeant to do so during all investigative contacts. Department policy only suggests using the devices.
“I just follow the policies and procedures of the police department,” Derrig told investigators, adding that his sergeant “was not there at the time of the incident. She came afterwards. ... When she tells me to do it, I turn it on.”
The investigation also found several discrepancies between the arrest report Derrig wrote and statements he gave to investigators and to his sergeant, including details of his scrap with Dascoulias — how he struck Dascoulias, where the fight occurred, how a nearby mirror was damaged.
“I have taken into consideration the specific direction and orders given to Officer John Derrig by his supervisors and I find that he has failed repeatedly to repair his conduct and work within the policies and procedures of the Marco Island Police Department,” Carr wrote in a memo. “It is my belief that he can no longer function as a member of this agency.”
Derrig’s personnel file lists several complaints and allegations made against him since he was hired in October 2005, including allegations of harassing people, using inappropriate language around a teenager, and attending a party where a sexual assault occurred while he was on duty. He was reprimanded for failing to appear in court in 2006, and received counseling in 2007 for being involved in a bar fight in Fort Myers — reports say he was defending himself.
One document describes Derrig as a “heavy-handed young officer that does not know how to talk to people.”
The most serious allegation found in the personnel file was made in 2008 by a female acquaintance who claimed Derrig raped her on two occasions, including once when she was intoxicated and passed out at his home. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office closed its investigation due to lack of evidence and because the complaint was filed years after the fact.
In 2007, Derrig was the recipient of a Phoenix Award, which is given to Collier emergency responders who save a life. He was also named Officer of the Month on at least two occasions by the Marco Police Foundation in 2006 and 2007, according to Daily News records.
Kirshey said he hopes Derrig’s termination was not based on past allegations.
“Certainly I think people are supposed to be judged.... on what you did, not on your alleged history or anything like that,” Kirshy said. “I’m going to assume that this is just from this situation and doesn’t have anything to do with things in the past.”