Lee deputy fired for pepper-spraying handcuffed man

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott says he issued “swift and sure punishment” against a corrections deputy who lied about pepper-spraying a man detained under the Marchman Act.

“In this case, it was uncalled for, unnecessary and shameful and won’t be tolerated,” Scott said Friday after an internal affairs investigation into Paul Greenleaf who has been with the agency since 2007.

“We’ve fired him. It’s the most severe action I could take against him,” Scott said. “It’s an egregious policy violation.”

Greenleaf was accused of using excessive force against Jeremy Garrett of Merrick, N.Y., then lying on official documents, according to the internal affairs report. He admitted during questioning that he was not truthful about the events that occurred April 9.

On April 21 investigators viewed videotape of the incident in response to a Sunshine Act request made by Garrett. After a deputy viewed the tape of the transfer cell, he notified supervisors and the internal affairs investigation commenced.

It’s not clear whether Garrett has an attorney or if he plans to file criminal or civil charges against the former deputy.

On April 9, a deputy went to HealthPark Medical Center and took Garrett to the Lee County Jail under the state’s act that allows a person to be detained when they are extremely drunk. The IA report released Friday shows Greenleaf wrote that Garrett’s breath alcohol content registered 0.135 on a portable machine. Within a minute of the transport deputy leaving Garrett alone with Greenleaf, Garrett was pepper-sprayed, according to an internal affairs report released Friday.

Greenleaf wrote in his initial use of force report that Garrett turned toward him in an aggressive manner when the deputy attempted to handcuff him. That is when Greenleaf applied one burst of pepper spray to the man.

The video, however, “showed Garrett never turned towards (sic) Deputy Greenleaf and two applications of OC spray had been applied to Garrett’s face by Deputy Greenleaf,” according to the report. “Deputy Greenleaf admitted in his interview his statement was not truthful to the events that took place on the video.” Greenleaf also said he re-handcuffed Garrett “because he was becoming loud and cussing at him. …While handcuffing Garrett he could feel him tense up and he felt the situation was going to get worse.”

The video showed “no evidence of passive or aggressive resistances from Garrett,” according to the report.

Garrett was made to bend over with his hands cuffed behind his back and lift his arms, and was sprayed twice, according to the report.

The allegations of insubordination: truthfulness and improper conduct, excessive or unnecessary force not resulting in injury were substantiated and Scott withdrew Greenleaf’s appointment. Greenleaf has one previous substantiated case in the past five years where he received a written reprimand.

Garrett could not be located for comment.

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