Video shows corrections officer shooting inmate through cell door

- A half dozen corrections jail incident reports about what happened when a corrections officer shot 29-year-old Matthew Trevino, who suffers from mental illness, are remarkably consistent with one another. But they are not consistent with a video recorded by one of the officers.

The video of the August 2015 shooting will likely be at the center of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Earlier that day, Trevino had been booked into the Pasco County jail on a probation violation.That night, deputies, who wanted to search his cell for contraband, told him to place his hands through the slot of his door to be handcuffed, according to both the reports and the video.

Trevino, who was alone in his cell and naked, would not put his hands through the door. Instead, he was exposing his genitals, making incoherent statements and taunting officers.

"You never finished the academy and I'm a Marine, open this door and I will kick your ass," he said, according to the report by Cpl. Robert Haas. 

His attorney, Lee Pearlman said the Army veteran suffers from schizophrenia.

"I don't know how you wouldn't be aware of it,” he said about the officers. "He's absolutely having a schizophrenic break and the statements he's saying are bizarre." 

Haas' report said he aimed a 12- gauge shotgun loaded with a Nova round – the equivalent of a flashbang grenade – at Trevino.

Accounts of what happened in five of the six officers' reports are worded similarly. 

Sgt. Robert Lowry's report said, "Trevino appeared to take a step back away from the food chute, and Cpl. Haas deployed the Nova discretionary round.”

Similarly, deputy Logan Kelly's report said the inmate "took a step back" and "Haas saw a window of opportunity."

And deputy Joseph Fauci's report said, "Haas observed a window of opportunity when Inmate Trevino stepped back from the cell door."

Finally, Cpl. Manuel Haag's report says, "Haas observed a window of opportunity once Inmate Trevino stepped back from his cell door." When Trevino “stepped back,” Haas fired his shotgun, according to his report.

The sixth deputy's report did not mention Trevino taking a step back. Lt. Richard Bain "voluntarily separated" from the agency in March, according to personnel records.

Despite the remarkable consistencies between five of the officers' accounts, they are inaccurate.

A video of the incident, recorded by one of the officers and obtained by his attorneys, shows Trevino had his face pressed up against the door when Haas fired, aiming at the door opening where the Army veteran had exposed his genitals.

"He was right up against the door. Completely unnecessary," said Trevino's attorney, Mark Rankin. "There's no reason, at this point, that they have to force their way into the cell. This is not an emergency situation. There's certainly no reason they have to use this level of force."  

The level of force is the subject of an upcoming federal civil rights lawsuit Trevino’s lawyers plan to file against the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Trevino's injuries, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, sent him to the Veterans Administration hospital for months. He’s had three surgeries so far.

The corporation that manufactures the Nova rounds, Lightfield Ammunition, warns they should never be fired directly at humans or pets, or the "less lethal" ammunition could be lethal. A company training video for the Nova ammunition, posted on YouTube, shows it being used by SWAT teams to blast open a locked door. The company said it can be used as a device to distract animals or people. 

In this August shooting, it caused officers in the hall to jump back. Trevino fell on the floor, with injuries to his thigh that left his muscle exposed, according to medical records reviewed by FOX 13 News. 

Sheriff Chris Nocco refused to answer questions about the incident.

"A criminal with a violent history in the jail failed to comply with lawful directions. His actions dictated our reaction," he said in an emailed statement from one of his spokespeople.

Trevino has no violent crime convictions.

Pearlman said the Pasco County Sheriff's Office has not disciplined any of the officers.

"There was a finding, essentially, that because there was no actual policy in place about the use of this round or how to use it, no policies were violated and therefore no disciplinary actions were taken," Pearlman said. 

State Attorney Bernie McCabe did not respond to an inquiry about whether his office has investigated the incident.

Have a tip? FOX 13 Investigates wants to hear from you. Email us at investigates@wtvt.com. Contact the reporter directly at (813) 870-9758 or email tina.jensen@foxtv.com.

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