The Clearwater Police Department in Florida fired an officer who was caught on video (below) using excessive force by body-slamming a 13-year-old boy, according to media reports on May 24.
On April 2, three officers with the Clearwater Police Department answered a disturbance call from a temporary shelter for youth, where the teenager was allegedly hitting another teen and destroying property, notes WTVT.
Officer Michael Leonardo reportedly handcuffed the boy, and informed the youngster that he was being charged with battery. As Leonardo and the teen walked outside, Leonardo believed the young man was trying to escape custody, and proceeded to slam the handcuffed boy down on the ground.
Police Chief Daniel Slaughter said the teen suffered a broken nose and two chipped teeth.
The officers placed the teen in a police car, but then removed him because they were reportedly concerned that the teen's blood might contaminate their cruiser.
The bleeding teen laid on the ground until paramedics arrived.
The police department internal investigation found that Leonardo used excessive force; the four-year police veteran was subsequently fired.
Slaughter said he "doesn't see [Leonardo] as the villain," but added that "there are some mistakes in this profession that cannot be overlooked," reports WFTS.
Slaughter said the other officers at the scene, Cpl. Christopher Miller and Officer Scott Boeckel, were given counseling and training for their actions after the takedown, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Miller and Boeckel watched as the boy writhed in pain on the ground. According to Slaughter, the officers should have left the boy in the police car and monitored him until paramedics arrived.
"Obviously, the takedown maneuver is the crux of our conversation today, but the juvenile rolling on the ground is not something I'm very proud of," Slaughter told reporters. "We have enough funds to clean a cruiser if we have to."
In reference to the police takedown of the boy, Slaughter noted Leonardo was 2 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than the teen. Slaughter said Leonardo had a firm enough grip on the boy, and Miller and Boeckel were there to help, if needed.
"Temperament is part of this job," Slaughter stated. "Making those decisions under pressure is part of this job."
Slaughter said Leonardo is an Army veteran with two tours in Afghanistan.
"I don't really believe it's appropriate for me to villainize him," Slaughter said. "In this particular scenario, he just didn't handle himself appropriately."