COOPER CITY - A Broward Sheriff's Deputy was arrested and jailed Saturday for speeding to a scene at the behest of his live-in girlfriend and arresting, punching and siccing his police dog on a 17-year-old boy, then writing a false police report to substantiate it, authorities say.
Gerald Wengert, 33, has been charged with battery, falsifying records and official misconduct and was immediately suspended without pay, according to Jim Leljedal, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff's Office. His bond has been set at $2,000.
Wengert's arrest stems from a Dec. 1, 2010, reckless driving arrest of Mark Visconti, now 19.
An internal affairs investigation showed that contrary to Wengert's police report, he did not witness Visconti drive in reverse on Stirling Road and nearly strike a car, but his girlfriend, Jennifer Mercer, did.
The investigation also showed that Wengert spent 17 minutes on the telephone with Mercer while he sped to the scene, yet he denied her involvement.
"When we get a complaint, or there is some sign of wrongdoing, we investigate and take action if policies were violated or laws were broken," Sheriff Al Lamberti said in a prepared statement released Saturday afternoon. "It bothers me that we have nearly 6,000 dedicated employees doing the right thing every day and people hear more about the mistakes and misdeeds of a few. But regardless of the effect, we are not going to sweep anything under the rug."
According to an arrest affidavit, the incident played out like this:
It was about 3 p.m. when Visconti was driving with a friend after school and spotted two other friends walking on Stirling Road. He drove in reverse, pulling into Southwest 99th Terrace, where Mercer was in line at a stop sign in her vehicle. She angrily confronted Visconti about his driving and said she was calling the police.
Unable to calm Mercer down, Visconti and his friends drove away. While on the phone with Wengert, Mercer followed Visconit to a Wendy's restaurant. Wengert meanwhile was seen speeding in that direction.
When Visconti pulled away from Wendy's, Wengert pulled him over, yelled expletives, yanked him from his car, punched him several times, put him in a headlock and sicced his police dog on him.
When back-up officers arrived, Visconti was on the ground and Wengert "had difficulty getting his dog to release," according to the affidavit. Injuries to Visconti's face and legs required medical attention.
When questioned at the station, Visconti told detectives that Wengert's behavior was prompted by the call from his girlfriend.
Wengert wrote in his police report that he witnessed the entire incident and denied his girlfriend's involvement.
Wengert, 33, has been with the Sheriff's Office since February 2004. Prior to that, he worked five years for the Cooper City Police Department.
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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