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Martin County corrections sergeant accused of striking wheelchair-bound inmate

Inmate suffers 3 contusions to head after dispute over socks
Posted at 12:42 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 17:19:42-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A corrections sergeant with the Martin County Sheriff's Office was arrested Monday night and accused of battery on a wheelchair-bound inmate.

Officials said corrections staff first became aware of the incident on June 7 and became concerned about the situation.

"The complaint was brought to us not by the inmate, but rather concern from the corrections supervisory staff," said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

The case was reported to internal affairs, who began to investigate on June 9.

The investigation revealed that during an unrelated medical assessment by corrections medical staff, the inmate and sergeant had a verbal exchange.

Snyder said the sergeant, identified as Stephen Piekara, has been with the department 10 years.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder discusses arrest of corrections sergeant, June 29, 2021
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder discusses the arrest of a corrections sergeant who is accused of hitting an inmate.

"There was a question over his socks and that led to a back and forth between the sergeant and the inmate," Snyder said.

First, Snyder said the inmate intentionally rolled his wheelchair toward Piekara.

"The sergeant stopped the wheelchair, the inmate came out of the wheelchair, and following that there was another altercation where the officer struck the inmate in the head three times," Snyder said.

The inmate suffered three contusions to the head and had to be treated at the correction's medical unit.

The State Attorney's Office later reviewed the case and directed a warrant be issued for the corrections sergeant.

Piekara was arrested Monday night and faces one count of felony battery on a handicapped person.

"It is outlier behavior. It is not indicative of what our deputies do," Snyder said.

Officials said Piekara posted a $7,500 bond and was released from custody.

The sergeant has been relieved of his duty pending the outcome of the trial.

The sheriff's office said because of victims' privacy laws, the name of the inmate is not being released.

Snyder confirmed he is still being held in the jail, awaiting trial on charges of possession and sale of fentanyl and battery on a law enforcement officer.

The incident was partially recorded on surveillance cameras, which the sheriff’s office said it will release following approval from the state attorney's office.

"I think anybody that sees the tape will not appreciate what they see, they will probably have the same reaction I did. It's completely unacceptable," Snyder said.

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