Sheriff: Suspect spit in deputy's face before rough arrest

Sheriff Grady Judd said an investigation into alleged brutality after a video circulated on social media of a Polk County deputy apparently striking a handcuffed man twice.

The man who recorded the video is under arrest for a previous warrant out of Lakeland for aggravated battery. The deputy who threw the punch is not on paid administrative leave at this time. But the sheriff seemed very concerned about the events.

Referencing the video, Sheriff Judd said, “I clearly see a man resisting deputies and spitting in their face in the middle of a pandemic.”

It started when a fight broke out in Lakeland. A man named Unique Occena captured the incident on camera. The brawl continued for several minutes before Polk County deputies arrived.

In the video, you see 20-year-old Fernando Jimenez walk toward a silver car. He was about to get in when two deputies put him in handcuffs. There was some pushing and shoving as they walk him to the sheriff’s cruiser.

Then you see the deputy hit Jimenez twice.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Jimenez resisted arrest and began pulling away and bracing his arms and legs, in an attempt to stop the deputy.

“He is a principal and a witness to the first fight, and he was trying to leave,” Judd said. “We were trying to make contact with him, and he was saying all types of wonderful things to my deputies.”

Watch Sheriff Judd's full press conference

That is when Judd says Jimenez spit at the female deputy.

“If somebody spits in my face, I’m gonna get him outta my face and they made a bad choice by spitting in my face or my partner’s face in the middle of a pandemic,” said Sheriff Judd.

Judd says he’s ordering that both deputies be tested for COVID-19 in the coming days.

Fernando Jimenez spoke to FOX 13 Thursday. He said he was just trying to move the car out of the way. He wasn’t trying to leave the scene.

“I told him I wasn’t going to do anything, that I was just going to move the car,” said Fernando Jimenez. “I was walking toward the back of the car and that’s when he grabbed me and pushed me to the back of the car and put me in handcuffs."

Jimenez was charged with resisting an officer with and without force, and battery on a law enforcement officer.

But Thursday afternoon, as FOX 13 News crews arrived at the location of Wednesday’s events, nearly a dozen sheriff’s office vehicles were surrounding the home of Occena.

In continuing their investigation of Wednesday’s brawl, deputies discovered there was an active warrant out for Occena.

“Occena had an outstanding felony warrant,” Judd said. “In the recent past, he hit a guy with a crowbar a couple of times, over a domestic disturbance.”

Records show the warrant was signed by the Lakeland Police Department in April.

“He resisted us – when we asked to speak with him,” said Judd. “But he did not fight with us. He refused to come out for a period of time. I think he thought we were arresting him for taking a video – but we determined there was an outstanding warrant for him.”

Occena was arrested shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday.

Sheriff Judd said Occena’s video is a part of the investigation and he expects more arrests from Wednesday’s brawl to come.