Civil rights groups accuse Polk County Sheriff's Office of excessive force in teen's arrest

The organizers of two Florida civil rights groups are calling for an independent investigation into the arrest of a teenager during a domestic disturbance at a Davenport motel where a Polk County deputy used a stun gun on the 15-year-old.

Ahead of a news conference on Wednesday, the Poor & Minority Justice Association and Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk, Inc. accused the Polk County Sheriff's Office of excessive force and unjust charges in the incident.

The groups claim the 15-year-old was suffering a mental breakdown stemming from a developmental disability as a sergeant with PCSO tried to restrain him. The incident occurred on July 8.

According to the sheriff's office, the deputy was trying to get the teen under control after detectives said the teen beat, shoved, and bit his girlfriend, who is seven months pregnant. Investigators say they were arguing over a cell phone.

Despite the female deputy using the stun gun on the 15-year-old, investigators said the boy continued to resist. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd came to his deputy's defense Wednesday afternoon during a news conference. 

Sheriff Judd said the sergeant had great restraint during the incident, and said he would have tased the 15-year-old long before she did. Judd said when the Polk County deputy got on scene, the situation was chaotic, and when she tried to put the teen in cuffs, he was uncooperative. The sheriff pointed out that the deputy was smaller than the 15-year-old, so when he threatened to punch her three times, she used the taser. 

"When you use a taser, you know what write this down in ur book, you don’t have to be knotted up in a fight….control of it," Judd said during the news conference.  

Advocates defending the teenager argue that cell phone video taken by the teenager's mother proves that he did not pose a threat to law enforcement at the time he was tased by Sergeant Shanon Gaylord.

"Actions taken by Sgt. Gaylord [were] unjustified and unlawful," the organizers said in a joint news release. The groups additionally claim that the alleged victim, the teenager's girlfriend has denied the allegations listed in the arrest affidavit from the Polk County Sheriff's office.

Read the affidavit below. Please note: the teen suspect's name has been removed.

The State of Florida to include Deputies from the Polk County Sheriff's Office as well as an Officer from the Haines City Police Department were also victims in this incident.

On 07/08/22 the suspect and victim were in an argument over a cell phone. The suspect took the phone from the victim and threw it to the ground, breaking it. The suspect then pushed the victim with his hands an undetermined number of times. The suspect then pushed the victim up against the wall with this hand (unknown right or left) by the victim's neck. The victim stated she was able to free herself and the suspect's actions did not impede her normal flow of breathing.

The suspect slapped the victim an undetermined number of times in the face and chest. The suspect bit the victim in the upper right back just below the shoulder blade leaving a bite mark. The suspect grabbed the victim by her hair and pushed her against a wall. The victim is seven (7) months pregnant. The suspect admitted to having prior knowledge of this.

PCSO Sgt. Gaylord #7195S arrived on scene first and observed the suspect holding the victim by her hair and the victim appeared to be trying to get the suspect off of her. (It should be noted Sgt. Gaylord was wearing her agency-issued class B uniform along with agency-issued equipment while displaying (2) two agency patches on her right and left shoulder as well as her agency-issued five-point star on the upper left side of her chest which reads "Sergeant Polk County Sheriff's Office").  Sgt. Gaylord identified herself as "Sheriff's Office" while exiting her vehicle and gave the suspect multiple commands to release the victim and to "separate."

Due to the suspect not complying with the lawful commands given, Sgt. Gaylord then pushed the suspect on his back separating the two allowing her to get in between both parties. The suspect continued to ignore lawful commands given by Sgt. Gaylord to which she then drew her agency Taser and armed it. 

At this time the suspect began to yell "Tase me, f----- Tase me." Sgt. Gaylord continued to give the suspect lawful commands to get on the ground. The suspect continued to defy lawful orders and turned his back away from Sgt. Gaylord, to which she then grabbed the suspect's left arm with her left hand while holding her Taser in her right hand.

The suspect then grabbed Sgt. Gaylord's left hand with his right hand and attempt to remove her grip. Sgt. Gaylord then gave the suspect lawful command to "not touch her" to which the suspect replied, "don't f------ touch me then." Sgt. Gaylord attempted to place the suspect's left hand behind his back to which the suspect then tensed up his left arm. 

Sgt. Gaylord was able to maneuver the suspect up against the window and was able to pull his left hand behind his back. Sgt. Gaylord gave the suspect multiple commands for him to place his other hand behind his back to which he replied "I ain't doing s---." 

The suspect was able to get his body off of the window while Sgt. Gaylord had his left wrist behind his back. The suspect then stated to Sgt. Gaylord, "I'm going to swing on her" and then stated to her on a more aggressive voice for second time, "I'm going to f------ swing on her."

Due to the suspect being larger than Sgt. Gaylord, the suspect's actions and attitudes, the suspect actively resisting, and the suspect threatening to do bodily harm against Sgt. Gaylord, this placed Sgt. Gaylord in fear and cause her to believe that danger was imminent. 

Therefore, Sgt. Gaylord disengaged her grip from the suspect's wrist and deployed her agency Taser which made a positive connection in the suspect's mid to lower back effectively incapacitating him for approximately (5 )five seconds, the desired effect was achieved, and the suspect fell to the ground. Upon additional units arriving on scene, the suspect's hands were placed behind his back.

During this time, additional deputies and officers from nearby agencies were responding. In his attempt to rush to help, Brad Webster, a Haines City police officer, jumped over a fence and ran in front of a Polk Sheriff’s cruiser that was also there to assist.

Officer Brad Webster

Haines City Police Officer Brad Webster

Webster was taken to a nearby hospital as a trauma alert. He is expected to be released later this week.

MORE: Haines City police officer hospitalized after being hit by Polk deputy's cruiser

According to the teen's affidavit, after being placed in handcuffs, he stated to Sgt. Gaylord, "Take these cuffs off, so I can beat this b----'s a--." 

The teen has no prior convictions for battery or assault. He faces charges of battery on a pregnant individual, assault on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting without violence, and resisting with violence.