Couple accuses Marco Island Police Department of using excessive force
A Marco Island woman has alleged the police used excessive force last month during an arrest. Naples Daily News
Nina McKeough is a free woman but remains incredulous as to how her freedom was nearly taken away.
The 54-year-old, part-time Marco Island resident was arrested on a charge of resisting an officer May 5 after an Uber driver placed a 911 call claiming that McKeough’s fiancé, Mont Reed, punched her in the face.
“It was so egregious that they said they were there to protect me and yet, they were the ones that beat me up,” McKeough said.
In the video, McKeough’s face showed no marks indicating she had been struck and throughout the incident with police, she was adamant that Reed never laid a hand on her.
While the discoloration under her eyes is a product of her tears, the bruising on her body, she claims, came courtesy of the Marco Island Police Department after McKeough says she attempted to intervene when officers began "manhandling" Reed while he was already handcuffed.
McKeough says she intends to pursue litigation against the city of Marco Island after the state attorney’s office declined to prosecute the charge against her, citing insufficient evidence despite the existence of dashcam footage from at least two Marco Island Police Department squad cars.
“This is an obstruction case and just because she would not provide information to the officers that was satisfactory does not mean that she was obstructing the investigation,” Assistant State Attorney Connor Boe wrote in case notes provided by the state attorney’s office.
Footage from the two dashboard cameras, obtained through a public records request, brings more questions than answers as it does not capture the exchange that prompted McKeough’s arrest or all of the events that led to bruising on her wrists, forearms, triceps, left breast, left hip and right thigh. Reed sustained heavy bruising and cuts on his forearms.
Although there are pictures to support the presence of injuries on both McKeough and Reed, a public records request produced no use-of-force report forms submitted for the incident. The department’s policy requires a use-of-force report for any officer that uses force, causing any injury, or the officer uses pepper spray, a Taser, baton or firearm.
With new information coming to light, Acting Chief Dave Baer said it would be inappropriate to comment at this time in response to questions about what the video does not show or requests to put officers’ actions into context.
The Naples Daily News provided photos of the injuries as well as timestamps from the different dashcams to the Marco Island Police Department as part of its inquiry into the officers’ conduct.
“Your inquiry provided information that had not yet been provided to the Police Department,” Baer said. “As such, I believe it is incumbent on the department to inquire into the circumstances that you have (relayed).”
In an email to City Manager David Harden Saturday, Baer said it was too early to suggest any policy violations or failures but the incident warranted further examination.
“The reporter has asked a series of questions and provided what has been asserted as post-arrest photographs which show bruising,” Baer wrote “I believe the questions and photographs justify further inquiry/vetting. I have asked investigators to review the case, including the additional information provided by the reporter. We are reviewing arrestee/officer actions, as well as associated policies to determine if and to what extent the policies require updating or modification.”
Information provided from the video:
- Footage from Officer Alejandra Moreno’s dashcams was split into two clips: 1:18:32 a.m.-1:21:27 a.m. and 1:24:09 a.m-2:17:03 a.m.
- An officer attempting to pickup McKeough in a cradle-like motion before putting her in the backseat at the start of the second clip. The microphone was off during the sequence so it’s unknown what is being said or what commands officers were giving.
- McKeough repeatedly asking why she was being arrested. On multiple occasions, officers told her it was because she put her hands on an officer.
- Profanity being hurled in the direction of officers.
- McKeough reiterating that Reed never touched her.
A Marco Island woman has alleged the police department used excessive force during an arrest In May. Naples Daily News
- McKeough screaming about her handcuffs, kicking the bottom of the door before one officer says, “We don’t care. We don’t care.”
- As officers are placing a handcuffed McKeough in the patrol car, she kicks out her leg at one point to prevent them from closing the door.
- Twelve minutes after being patted down while handcuffed, McKeough screams out from the back of the patrol car asking why she was arrested and what she did. Now-former officer Travis Peterkin, who accepted a position in Sarasota prior to the incident, warned McKeough that she was going to be OC sprayed if she didn’t calm down.
A Marco Island woman has alleged the police department used excessive force during an arrest in May. Naples Daily News
- Peterkin alleged McKeough attempted to jump on his back, which she denied in the video. Peterkin’s allegations are also not present in either the booking sheet or arrest reports.
- McKeough admitted to grabbing Officer John Derrig and states she did so because officers were going after Reed.
- On the trip to Naples Jail Center, McKeough asks why everyone is guilty before proven innocent. Officer Jeff Stafford stated: “You’re guilty by your actions. I can attest to that.”
So how did this happen?
The booking sheet, arrest report and dashcam footage are all consistent about the sequence of events that precipitated the May 5 incident.
McKeough and Reed, who both stated they had consumed alcohol that evening, were headed home from Naples in an Uber when they proceeded to get in a verbal argument.
In a sworn written statement to Marco police, the driver of the Uber stated she saw Reed punch McKeough in the face and then heard him say that he was going to hit her when they returned home.
Both in dashcam footage and interviews afterwards, McKeough and Reed denied the driver’s recollection of events and stated the driver reported the incident only after receiving a bad review for the ride.
McKeough and Reed provided their Uber trip history, which corroborates their statements that a poor review was given to the driver, and said police failed to interview another person who was in the car at the time. It is a violation of Uber policy for a driver to have a family member or friend in the car during a trip.
While McKeough said multiple police officers “bum-rushed” Reed when they arrived at the scene, it is standard police policy to treat domestic violence as a high-priority incident and for at least two officers to respond. The arrest report indicates at least six were on-scene at one point.
It is also standard policy for officers to separate the parties to where they can neither hear or see one another before seeking out a statement.
In the arrest report, Peterkin wrote that Reed attempted to flee into the house and was detained based on his inability to follow the commands of officers. Peterkin also wrote that Reed became “combative, tensed up and placed his arms in front of him.”
As previously noted, McKeough did admit to grabbing Derrig as this was happening but said she did so in response to the officers’ conduct towards Reed.
“If they had come up calmly and said we need to investigate, everything could have dissipated,” McKeough said. “They were diving in and throwing him against the wall, holding his head with a forearm. That’s when I grabbed the one cop’s arm and said, ‘What are you doing?’”
Shortly thereafter, Reed was placed under arrest for resisting an officer and for domestic violence battery. Those charges remain pending.
Both in the arrest report and on video, Peterkin said that he placed Reed under arrest solely based upon the statement of the Uber driver, who he classified as an “unbiased source.”
A Marco Island couple alleges that they were subject to excessive force during an arrest in May. Naples Daily News
While McKeough said multiple times that he did not strike her, the police report stated McKeough refused to give an official statement and that they could not observe injuries to McKeough due to her behavior.
Although McKeough denied there was any physical violence as alleged, the decision to move forward with charges is not up to her. Per state law, the decision to move forward with charges when it comes to domestic violence falls with the state attorney’s office.
As for a civil suit
State statute provides police officers civil immunity for arrests so long as they are made in “good faith.”
While there is no footage of the act, dashcam footage shows McKeough did admit to injecting herself into the situation when officers focused on her fiancé.
Regardless of the outcome of a possible civil suit, McKeough and Reed said their confidence in the police has been shaken.
“I would be hard-pressed to call 911 even if I had a gun pressed against my head,” McKeough said.