Pinellas County detention deputy fired after hitting inmate in wheelchair, officials say

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says there is "just no excuse" for what one of his deputies was seen doing on surveillance video, from September, taken inside the Pinellas County Jail.

The video shows a corrections deputy hitting an inmate, who was sitting in a wheelchair.

Gualtieri says the deputy has been fire.

"There's no reason for it. It's not justified. It's flat-out wrong," the sheriff said Friday.

Investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Aaron Hall was supervising a housing unit inside the Pinellas County Jail when a group of inmates began causing a disturbance during a lockdown.

One inmate, 24-year-old Taylor Schuessler, who uses a wheelchair, “verbally challenged” Hull and other inmates, officials said. Hull told him to stop, but Schuessler refused.

The sheriff’s office released surveillance video showing Hull kick his own chair and approach Schuessler. 

Hull placed his left hand on the back of the inmate’s neck and poked him multiple times in the head with his right index finger, investigators said. 

“The actions provoked and escalated the inmate’s behavior,” officials said in a statement.

Then, Hull used his left hand to grab Schuessler’s shirt, and both continued to argue. Hull brought his face closer to Schuessler’s, officials described, and Schuessler responded by spitting in Hull’s face.

Hull reacted by striking Schuessler three time on the left side of his face with an open hand, officials said, and the inmate continued to resist. The deputy called for assistance and began to relocate Schuessler to another part of the jail. 

As Schuessler was being moved, investigators said he attempted to strike Hull with his elbows, closed fist, and his head. Hull grabbed Schuessler around his torso until he calmed down, officials said. Neither were injured.

During the investigation, Hull admitted he behaved inappropriately, and shouldn’t have poked the inmate in the head, officials said. He was fired on Thursday.

"He knew what he should have done, but it seems like he got mad and couldn't control his anger," Sheriff Gualtieri said.

Investigators said it’s not the first time Hull was disciplined for similar behavior. In 2015, he entered an inmate housing unit to resolve an issue among one of the inmates. Officials said Hull flipped over a table as he approached the inmate. At the time, Hull said he did it to get the inmate’s attention, according to the sheriff’s office.