Sheriff’s Office Says No Excessive Force Despite Witness Complaints

Natalie Jackson Deidra Reid Lawanna Gelzer press conferenceOrange County Sheriff Jerry Demings’ office is claiming no excessive force was used by deputies in the arrest of two college students, Deidra Reid and Reginald Lane, Jr. A six month internal investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office claimed the tactics used by Deputies Richard Nye, Brett Parnell and Kristine Helms were “within protocol,” despite numerous citizen complaints filed on record alleging excessive force was used in the arrests. Last month, Erik Sandoval with News 6 reported State Attorney Jeff Ashton dropped all criminal charges against Deidra Reid stating: “From the investigation which has been made, it is the opinion of the writer that this case is not suitable for prosecution.”

It appears Sheriff Demings, who is seeking re-election this year, is covering for his officers after stalling for months rather than ensuring the excessive force complaints are taken seriously. Demings has long blamed the students, rather than the actions taken by his deputies, with no apparent regard for the students’ civil rights. In fact, there were five witness complaints made against OCSO deputies from the incident and submitted in writing to the Sheriff’s office back in July. The citizens’ complaints all allege excessive force and provide haunting details from the incident.

“I witnessed Deidra Reid arrested by Officer Ny and Officer Parnell,” a complaint from Leonard Davis stated. “Deidra Reid was thrown into a fence by both Nye and Parnell and then aggressively forced to the ground. While this was occurring I could hear Deidra Reid screaming in pain and stating clearly, ‘I am not resisting.'”

“Upon brutally hitting the floor, Officer Nye proceeded to mount her and force her arm out of place to handcuff her,” Davis continued. “She yelled during this entire event, she continued to scream in pain.”

Another witness, Olivia Ferguson, also filed a citizen’s complaint form alleging excessive force was used. “I have it on video and you can clearly hear them saying ‘I am not resisting arrest,'” Ferguson wrote in her complaint. “Officer Nye sat on Deidra Reid’s back for about 5-7 minutes while her arm was in an uncomfortable position. You can clearly see her shoulder about to pop out of place.”

“After witnessing Officer Parnell constantly pushing and pointing his finger in Deidra’s face as he was cornering her in front of the clubhouse, I was concerned and called her mother,” Kadijah May wrote in her citizen’s complaint alleging excessive force by the deputies. “I noticed Officer Nye approaching Deidra in an aggressive manner, yelling stop resisting which Deidra was not. She was cornered against a gate and bushes. He then twisted Deidra’s arm and brutally threw her to the ground, as he still has her arm bent in an angle which appeared to me that her shoulder might pop out of place as she pleaded and screamed for him to stop, he paid no attention to her well-being.”

“Brett Parnell wrongly accused Deidra Reid of trespassing even though she was occupied by resident Samantha Barrett,” wrote Reginald Lane, Jr. who also had all charges dropped against him. “After cornering Deidra Reid in a corner, Richard Nye then forcefully and violently attacked Deidra Reid. Accompanied by Brett Parnell, they both attempted to pin her to the ground while pulling her arms behind her back. Her arms appeared to be dislocated and Deidra Reid began to cry out for help.”

“Kristine Helms, a female officer, then approached me to arrest me and then forcefully kneed me in the groin and Officer Nye then grabbed me and slammed me on the car,” Lane continued. “After being placed in a psych holding cell for 6 hours without being booked or unable to make a phone call, I feel that Officer Nye, Parnell and Kristine Helms used excessive force and abuse of power to arrest me. I am traumatized and frightened of the events that occurred that afternoon.”

“In a different location Reginald was being detained after I, Leonard, was mistaken for the “Black Male” Nye, the off-duty officer, called to be arrested,” Davis’ complaint added. “She proceeded to knee him in the groin and attempt to slam him on the floor as well. Upon this failed attempt, Nye attempted to push him into a car and yell charges.”

“Mr. Nye excessively used force against me on July 20th 2015, without being on duty,” Deidra Reid’s written complaint stated. “He was called for backup after I was wrongfully accused of trespassing by Brett Parnell. He was not in police uniform and when they approached me they attacked me, pushed me up against the fence and dropped me on the floor while sitting on my back, and twisted my shoulder out of place while I was already in handcuffs.”

“I begged and pleaded for Nye to stop and he never did,” Reid continued. “I ended up in the back of an ambulance and then escorted to jail for no apparent reason with injuries.”

All five of the citizens’ complaints allege excessive force and state they do not agree with the tactics used by deputies in the incident. Attorney Natalie Jackson, who is representing the students, promises to file a civil rights lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and deputies involved in the incident.

“My client’s criminal case was dropped, but she should have never been arrested and abused in the first place,” attorney Jackson said. “Contrary to what many think, just because her case was dropped doesn’t mean this is over. I’m glad the criminal case is over for Deidra but I’m not happy at all about what the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Officer Nye and Officer Parnell have conspired to do to my client, a very young college student who is just starting her life, and the long-lasting effects of what they have done to her.”

“We will be suing them all for the harms they have caused her and her parents,” attorney Jackson added.

Deputy Nye has a long history of being accused of excessive force and abusing his position. In fact, 21 excessive force complaints have been filed against Deputy Nye in the past seven years. In addition to the lawsuit coming from Reid and Lane, Nye is also the subject of another lawsuit stemming from a September incident against a teen accusing the deputy of abuse in separate incident. “The force was excessive and brutal from the start,” Beth Aires with the NeJame Law, the firm representing the teen’s family, told WFTV about the September incident. “They didn’t identify themselves to the individual, who was 17 years old and terrified.”

“I think it’s outrageous conduct,” attorney Mark NeJame added about Deputy Nye.

Yet, Sheriff Jerry Demings still stands by his deputies. The lack of leadership and accountability could easily turn into a political vulnerability as Demings attempts to earn votes from the community for his re-election. Sheriff Demings’ wife, Val Demings, is also seeking another bid for Congress and has her own controversial history as the former police chief for the City of Orlando, where numerous excessive force complaints were made against her officers.

“It is beyond clear that we need an independent review board,” said Lawanna Gelzer, President of the National Action Network Central Florida chapter. “This is another clear example showing they cannot police themselves. The community has been demanding accountability, a zero-tolerance policy, transparency and independent Police Citizen Review Boards for far too long with no response from our elected officials.”

“From what I see, it is more important for Sheriff Demings to protect his officers rather than the people he is supposed to serve and the people he is seeking votes from,” Gelzer added.

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