RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Riviera Beach City Councilman Douglas Lawson was released from custody by order of the police chief after his arrest for simple domestic battery, Contact 5 has learned.
The police union is now calling for Chief Nathan Osgood to be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after he fired the captain who signed off on the arrest report.
Lawson was set to be honored this Friday night for his work on behalf of victims of domestic abuse. He has not been charged with any crime.
“I don’t know who in their right mind could unarrest a sitting council member for domestic battery,” said John Kazanjian, the president of the Palm Beach chapter of the Police Benevolent Association.
Contact 5 obtained the surveillance video from an elevator at the Marina Grande condominiums where Lawson lives overlooking the Intracoastal waterway.
Lawson’s attorney said that police acted properly in unresting his client because there was no evidence on the video of domestic battery.
Security at Marina Grande contacted police after reviewing the video while trying to locate the person who left her purse in front of the lobby doors. WPTV is not identifying the woman in the video.
Lawson, according to the arrest report obtained by Contact 5, approached the woman “in what appears to be an aggressive manner” and is “wrapping both arms around the victim’s legs and lifts her off the ground and pins her against the elevator wall before releasing her.”
The councilman, who is up for re-election early next year, was taken to the Riviera Beach Police Department. As officers were processing Lawson’s arrest, the police report states, “the Chief of Police Nathan Osgood provided a direct order to unrest the suspect and make him whole again.”
Lawson was released from his holding cell and then transported back to his residence by police.
Osgood did not respond to WPTV’s repeated efforts to reach him for comment.
The police report was signed by Captain Rochelet Commond, a 15-year veteran of the force. Last Friday, Commond was fired for insubordination.
The termination letter, signed by Riviera City Manager Jonathan Evans, stated that Commond failed to “follow a lawful directive to complete and sign a probable cause affidavit and arrest warrant filing packet alleging simple battery.”
Kazanjian said the termination was because Chief Osgood wanted parts of the police report taken out and Commond refused. “There was sufficient evidence to effect an arrest for domestic battery. They wanted that removed,” he said.
Commond has filed a whistleblower complaint with the city, he said.
Richard Ryles, Lawson’s attorney, described the security video as not warranting the arrest much less a criminal charge.
“What I saw in the video were two people talking and playing around with one another,” he said.
“I wouldn’t even be here if Mr. Lawson was some type of abuser but there’s no physical evidence whatsoever that would substantiate that he engaged in any kind of abuse.”
Contact 5 has confirmed the state attorney’s office is reviewing the incident to determine if any charges should be filed against councilman Lawson.
Ryles praised Chief Osgood for stepping in and letting his client go.
“I think that when law enforcement sees what they believe to have been a crime and they recognize that it’s not, they did the right thing,” he said. “I can only commend the chief and those that saw this for what it is, for releasing him and not taking this any further.”
In the meantime, councilman Lawson is still scheduled to be honored Friday night in Riviera Beach at the Stiletto Awards, a domestic violence awareness gala, and awards ceremony.”
Organizers said Wednesday that their plans remain to have Lawson at the event.