Zephyrhills police officer fired for improper use of force

- A Zephyrhills police officer was fired after an internal investigation determined he used excessive force while responding to a retail theft investigation, Chief David Shears said Friday.

The incident happened September 9th, when Officer Tim Claussen was investigating a shoplifting case that brought him to a home on 20th Street, looking for Lester Brown.

Video recorded by a camera mounted on Claussen's Taser shows the exchange between the officer and suspect.

Claussen ordered Brown several times to come out of his home, but he refused.

"Get outside, or I'm going to Tase you, you understand me?" Claussen can be heard saying.

Within about 25 seconds, Brown shows his hands, saying, "I don't have anything in my hands."

After about another 20 seconds, Brown still has his hands raised.

"Come outside now or you're about to get Tased. This is your last warning," Claussen tells Brown, who shakes his head.

"Taser! Taser!" the officer shouts, firing the Taser, which hit Brown, who retreats further in the home before he falls to the ground. As he gets handcuffed, Brown tells the officers, "this is excessive force. No reason."

At a news conference Friday morning, the city and police department addressed the incident.

"Upon conclusion of the investigation regarding the use of force, it was determined that they deployment of that  Taser was unjustified," said Joseph Poblick, the Zephyrhills city attorney.

Claussen was a 10-year veteran of the police department and, according to his supervisors, had a good record and "was not a discipline problem." Investigators said he had previously fired his Taser during investigations but, in each other case, it was determined he was justified.

Chief Shears said he was disappointed that this happened.

"It certainly hurts to have to do what I had to do yesterday but I'm here to do the right thing for our community," Shears said, adding the video was a big piece of the investigation. "I think it's just a piece of evidence that we use. I don't see that as a complete tool to come up with a conclusion to this. I think it's a combination of the video, statements, everything before we come up with a conclusion."

In his incident report, Claussen said Brown never showed his hands, but the video indicated he did.

Brown was charged with retail theft, but it has since been dropped.

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