Pinellas County fired its fifth deputy in six months recently after he was busted hitting a 15-year-old inmate and then lying about why he did it.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Joel De Los Reyes, 51, struck the teen for “mouthing off,” according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Adrian Nenu, another deputy, was suspended for failing to report De Los Reyes’ actions.
"I'm sorry it happened," Gualtieri said. "I'm sorry our people did something like this."
Gualtieri said that Nenu probably thought it was the other deputy’s “obligation” to report what had happened.
Initially, De Los Reyes told investigators that he had used a “guiding” touch on the juvenile, who was not complying with orders.
"It's a work of fiction and it didn't happen," Gualtieri said simply. "To think you're going to get away with it is just crazy and stupid."
“The report in Nenu's part was one complete tap dance,” he added.
In realty, the deputy and Steven Valentin, a teen charged as an adult for federal robbery, got into an argument about whether to keep the TV on.
The video reveals how the exchange escalates as De Los Reyes gets angrier. The deputy walks Valentin out of his cell, then knees him and strikes him with his elbow as they reach the door, where Nenu is standing.
"You can see where he just loses it," Gualtieri said, watching the surveillance video of the Aug. 31 confrontation.
De Los Reyes then told a lieutenant that there had been “horseplay,” while Nenu stood by silently. De Los Reyes, a 7-year veteran, blamed his anger management issues and resigned under investigation. Nenu, who has been on the force for 25 years, was suspended for seven days.
While the jail Pinellas County Jail houses a large population of 3,000 inmates and 750 deputies, five fired deputies in six months does not reflect well on the county. Another deputy, Elizabeth Kretzer, was forced to leave in June when she hit a female inmate on the head when the inmate flipped her off. Another, Deputy Paul Martin, asked a 17-year-old sexual battery victim if she was “into girls too.”
Ed. Note: See the video below if the first one does not work.