MIPD removed as defendant in lawsuit

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Police sirens.

A Collier County Circuit Court judge has removed the Marco Island Police Department as a defendant in a suit filed by an officer.

Judge Lauren Brodie dismissed the police department Thursday from the suit brought by Kevin Hennings, who alleged that he was illegally Baker Acted in 2013 and denied access to his wife and attorney.

Hennings and his wife, Molly, filed suit against the city of Marco Island, the police department and personnel involved in the situation: Don Hunter, David Baer, Linda Guerrero, Anthony Spina, Paul Keys and Robert Sims.

“While plaintiffs are entitled to bring their claims against the city, they cannot bring them against the police department because the police department is not a district legal entity separate from the city,” Brodie wrote in court documents.

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In the civil complaint, Hennings alleged he was told to report to police headquarters on Nov. 15, 2013, and told: “he could voluntarily submit to being Baker Acted or he would be forcibly and involuntarily Baker Acted.”

File: MIPD Officer Kevin Hennings testifies before Special Magistrate Myrnabelle Roche.

The Baker Act allows for the involuntary institutionalization and evaluation of someone that may have a mental illness and present harm to him or herself and others.

Hennings was forcibly restrained and transported to SalusCare, Inc. in Fort Myers, where he was released less than 24 hours later.

The complaint stated, “The illegal Baker Acting was the culmination of many failed attempts by defendant The Marco Police Department to force Officer Hennings to voluntarily resign from employment.”

Hennings alleged that his troubles with the Marco Island Police Department began years prior when his then-wife, Brandi, moved in with then-Chief Thom Carr, while Hennings was separated and going through divorce proceedings.

In his complaint, Hennings stated he was demoted, threatened with termination and criminal charges and placed under “undue supervisory pressures” before Carr resigned in 2011 after which Chief Don Hunter “continued defendants’ crusade to force Officer Hennings to resign.”

Listed in the factual allegations are numerous internal affairs investigations that were not sustained against Hennings, who stated that Hunter used “consecutive and multiple internal affairs investigations as a mechanism to pressure police officers to voluntarily resign.”

The final straw came when Hennings alleged Hunter orchestrated and ordered for him to be Baker Acted, which included police personnel submitting memos to “aid that plan.”

In the city’s motion to dismiss, it wrote that Sims had observed changes in Hennings’s behavior in October 2013 and that “the possibility of a tragic incident either to him or others is possible.”

Sims submitted his observations to Hunter in a memo the day Hennings was Baker Acted.

“I am aware that help is available if he were to request it,” Sims wrote. “One of the downsides of being an officer is we seldom ask for help as we believe it is viewed as a sign of weakness. While we are all very prideful individuals, I believe some type of intervention is needed in this matter.”

One day prior to taking Hennings to SalusCare, the city also noted that “Keys had a conversation with Mr. Hennings, during which Mr. Hennings suggested that he may harm others within the police department if his ‘prox card’ was shut off ‘due to pending IAs.’”

The case has been set on the jury trial docket for May 20, 2019.