State declines to prosecute man accused of breaking off-duty cop's nose
The state attorney's office has declined to prosecute a battery charge against the man accused of breaking the nose of an off-duty cop outside a bar. Naples Daily News
A Naples man accused of breaking the nose of an off-duty police officer outside a bar last month will not face prosecution.
The state attorney's office declined to prosecute a battery charge against William Simpson, citing insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. He was involved in an Aug. 17 altercation with Marco Island police officer Hunter Howell outside Paddy Murphy's in downtown Naples.
Simpson admitted to striking Howell but said he did so in self-defense after claiming Howell approached him from behind and pulled on his shirt. Accounts from both Simpson and Howell indicated the altercation came after Howell confronted Simpson.
“Defendant and victim have a similar version of events up to a certain point, and they both agree that the victim confronted defendant outside of the bar,” assistant state attorney James Stewart wrote in the case notes obtained through a public records request. “From there, the story differs and (the) defendant claims self-defense. There are no witnesses to the altercation and thus no way to overcome a (stand your ground) or self-defense argument here.”
Police were called to the 500 block of 5th Avenue South in response to a verbal dispute when they encountered Simpson and attempted to question him about a person he was seen with who left his debit card at the bar.
Simpson denied knowing of the person and told the officer he was headed home. Howell then approached the officer and stated Simpson and the unidentified man he was knew "an uncomfortable amount of information about his personal life."
After Howell left, the officer turned her vehicle around and encountered Howell pushing Simpson off him and noted Howell's face was covered in blood.
Howell told Naples police he approached Simpson in an effort to find out how the person he was with knew who he was and other personal information about him. Howell said he was about 15 feet away when he first addressed Simpson, whom he said then became aggressive and came at him with closed fists. EMS personnel took Howell to a local hospital to check his injuries.
Dashcam footage from the incident provides few details of what actually happened. While no footage was available from the arresting officer's vehicle, footage from another vehicle, which eventually transported Simpson to the Naples Jail Center, shows a Naples police officer rushing to the scene around 1:42 a.m. after a call over the radio of an off-duty police officer being punched in the face.
In that footage, Simpson, whose shirt is severely ripped, is incredulous as to why he was arrested. Although Simpson confirmed he was waiting for a cab when the incident occurred, he declined to comment further after an officer attempts to go over his recollection of events a second time.
Hours after the incident occurred, Marco Island Capt. Dave Baer wrote in a news release that the city would launch an inquiry into the incident.
As of Tuesday, the inquiry had not been concluded, Baer said.
Sawyer Smith, Simpson's attorney, said that while his client could pursue legal remedies in civil court, it was not Simpson's intention to do so.
“While it’s a pastime for me to go after bad law enforcement officers, Mr. Simpson just wants to move past this incident,” Smith said. “It’s incredulous that a drunk off-duty cop would chase him down an alleyway and pull out his badge. There’s an old saying that if you pull out your badge during a bar fight, It better have soft edges because you know where it’s going.”