COLLIER COUNTY — An arrest involving punches, vulgarities and use of a Taser following a high-speed motorcycle chase will be examined by internal investigators at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators will look at whether deputies followed guidelines when they arrested Mateo Falconi, 22, following a five-mile chase reaching speeds of 110 mph in November 2012, sheriff’s officials said Monday. A lawyer for Falconi said her client plans to file an excessive force lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office.
A dashboard camera video shows a deputy striking Falconi, knocking him to the ground, followed by repeated punches to the abdomen as two deputies try to secure Falconi’s arms behind his back.
“Among the questions that will be resolved are whether Mr. Falconi was resisting being handcuffed at the time of the alleged excessive response to resistance and whether deputies on scene were following agency and state response to resistance guidelines while taking Mr. Falconi into custody,” a Sheriff’s Office statement said.
In the video, sent to the Daily News by one of Falconi’s lawyers, deputies are seen chasing Falconi through North Naples after he took off during a routine traffic stop for excessive speed. Deputies said they followed Falconi for five miles before he reached a dead-end on Preserve Lane.
Falconi gets off his motorcycle and puts his hands in the air as a deputy exits his vehicle. The deputy, Robert Lewis III, draws his firearm and strikes Falconi in the neck area with his fist, causing Falconi to fall to the ground. After Falconi rolls to his stomach, Lewis and another deputy, identified in sheriff’s reports only as Cpl. Palmer, strike Falconi in the abdomen area with their fists, appearing to try to get Falconi’s arms out from under him. In an arrest report, Lewis writes Falconi “pulled his left (arm) underneath his torso with all his might.”
When the deputies can’t get Falconi’s arms behind his back, a Taser is used. Two more deputies enter the video screen and Falconi is secured.
Throughout the arrest, deputies repeatedly used vulgarities, with Lewis at one point shouting “I’ll (expletive) kill you” to Falconi.
“That night has left me permanently scarred and I fear further physical retaliation now that these events are being made public.” Falconi told NBC-2.
No misconduct complaint has been filed, but an internal investigation will be opened, the Sheriff’s Office statement said.
“In order to perform a complete review, many elements need to be reviewed, such as reports, videos, sworn statements and physical evidence,” the statement said. “In addition, other questions must be answered, including why was the vehicle traveling at speeds reaching 110 mph and why was the driver attempting to elude deputies. Law enforcement officers are permitted to respond to resistance, whether it be verbal, passive, active or aggressive, for the safety of the public, the officer and the subject.”
Falconi faces a felony charge of fleeing at a high rate of speed, along with charges of controlled substance possession and obstructing an officer without violence. A lawyer for Falconi said her client made a mistake by fleeing deputies but didn’t deserve the physicality of the arrest.