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Riviera Beach calls for investigation into councilman's 'unarrest' for domestic battery

City backtracks, reinstates fired police captain
Posted at 7:22 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 03:14:47-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — One needed a scorecard on Thursday to keep track of the saga engulfing Councilman Douglas Lawson and the man who had ordered him "unarrested" for domestic battery -- Police Chief Nathan Osgood.

Contact 5 first obtained new surveillance video that showed Lawson apparently dragging his fiancé Jade Calloway from the driver's seat of an SUV in the garage of Marina Grande. This followed the initial video broadcast Wednesday of the two scuffling in an elevator of the complex on the same early morning of Aug. 29.

Lawson and Calloway held a news conference at 7:30 p.m. with Calloway denouncing the investigation as politically motivated and claiming in no way was she a victim of domestic battery.

Then Riviera Beach made a 180-degree turn that may not bode well for Osgood.

City Manager Jonathan Evans re-instated the police captain who Osgood fired on Friday for insubordination for arresting and filing the police report on Lawson.

The police union had called for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the chief.

"I don't know how Chief Osgood looks himself in the mirror every day, I'll tell you that right now," John Kazanjian, president of the Palm Beach chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, told Contact 5.

After the Thursday night news conference, Riviera Beach distributed a news release in which Evans called for a third-party firm with a background in law enforcement policy and procedure to investigate.

The fired police captain, Rochelet Commond, was reinstated and placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

"The city of Riviera Beach takes this incident very seriously," Evans said in the news release. "We want the independent firm to examine the incident from every angle to determine what actually transpired."

Evans said the city is "committed to learning the truth about what happened here and we will share that information with the community as soon as the investigation is concluded."

Calling the domestic battery investigation political theater, Calloway denounced the councilman's initial detention by police. She still plans to marry Lawson next month and said she knows the videos that surfaced look bad.

Calloway said she had too much to drink and wanted to get back behind the wheel.

"He stopped me from leaving," she said. "And really, he helped me not hurt myself or anybody else. So, it kind of looked worse, I looked at the video, than it actually is."

Surveillance video in domestic battery arrest of Riviera Beach Councilman Douglas Lawson

West Palm Beach attorney Gregg Lerman said that he has never heard of someone being unarrested for domestic battery. He said the average citizen would have to spend the night in jail.

“I don't think I've ever had a client unarrested," Lerman said. "Did he get a favor? Yes. Does it look bad? Yes. Was it probably the right thing under circumstances that he not be arrested? I lean toward yes."

Osgood, who refused to answer Contact 5's questions, did speak to the Palm Beach Post, refuting that releasing Lawson was about favoritism. He claimed that the evidence didn't support Commond signing off on the arrest.

The police union said Commond was really fired because he didn't tailor the police report to Osgood's demands.

"There was sufficient evidence to effect an arrest for domestic battery. They wanted that removed," Kazanjian said.

Jennifer Rey, program services director for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, said she is worried victims of domestic violence in Riviera Beach will stop coming forward for help if they feel the community will not support their efforts to remain safe in their community.

"It's really important that we hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable so that they received the message that this is not acceptable in our community," Rey said.

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