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Boynton Beach officer investigated in teen's death has history of reprimands

Officer Mark Sohn reprimanded after 4 other crashes between 2007 to 2017
Boynton Beach Police Department vehicle, file
Posted at 3:26 PM, Mar 01, 2022

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — An officer involved in the deadly attempted traffic stop of a 13-year-old boy in Boynton Beach has a checkered past.

In the last 20 years, there have been more than a dozen reprimands for Boynton Beach Officer Mark Sohn.

His disciplinary history shows red flags including Sohn's probationary time as an officer when he was first hired in 2002.

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At the very beginning of his policing career with the Boynton Beach Police Department, Sohn got in trouble for several incidents including the following:

  • Accidentally discharging his shotgun
  • Failing to respond as a backup officer
  • Not turning in reports and "lack of proactive policing"

It was determined then that he had not met the basic required standards to be a full-time police officer and was given two weeks to improve his conduct.

However, in 2004, the department suspended Sohn for 57 hours for violating at least 12 different rules and policies in a vehicle pursuit.

Stanley Davis III, teen who died while being pursued by Boynton Beach police on Dec. 26, 2021
Stanley Davis III died a day after Christmas after crashing a dirt bike during the police pursuit.

Since then, he has been disciplined two other times for unsatisfactory performance in a vehicle pursuit. One of those resulted in the death of Cyrus Deal.

According to an internal affairs report obtained by the Palm Beach Post, Sohn chased Deal on a hunch that the Volkswagen Beetle he was driving was stolen.

At a high rate of speed, Deal hit a concrete wall and flipped out of control. The vehicle turned out not to be stolen.

"That particular action of violating agency policy, which resulted in the death of an individual, should probably warrant significantly more discipline, if not termination, and that did not happen," said law enforcement expert Andrew Scott.

Scott, who is also a former police chief, said it is widely known among law enforcement agencies in South Florida that pursuits are only justified when an officer has probable cause that a forcible felony has or is about to be committed.

Sohn was reprimanded at fault for four other crashes between 2007 and 2017. One crash included him rear-ending a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office vehicle.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the incident that led to 13-year-old Stanley Davis' death in December.

"Police officers are protected by their contract and by arbitration, and there's a variety of mechanisms by which an officer has to go through if he's going to be disciplined, particularly if he's going to be terminated after probation," Scott said. "At times [this] makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to terminate a police officer, and this is an issue all across the country."

Sohn also faced disciplinary action for disrespecting his immediate supervisors.

Despite these violations, in 2016, Sohn was nominated for officer of the month and was given a police duty medal for his "excellent police work in the face of extreme danger."

Boynton Beach City Manager Lori LaVerriere released the following statement Tuesday on the case:

"As City Manager, I stand firm in my commitment to a thorough, fair and objective investigation into the events of Dec. 26, 2021. The Police Department turned this case over to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) on Dec. 26, 2021 so that it would be handled by an impartial third party. FHP's criminal traffic homicide investigation is currently in progress. I will continue to explore and implement all means of expediting the review of this matter and bringing it to a fair and just conclusion.

In addition, following a news conference held this morning by the Law Firm of Ben Crump, the Boynton Beach Police Department received numerous inquiries from the media for clarification on the status of the officer involved in the Dec. 26, 2021 incident. The Boynton Beach Police Department reiterated that the officer was relieved of duty on Dec. 26, 2021, and the officer remains in that status on administrative leave. While in this status, the officer is not authorized to take any police action. The media also inquired about the existence of a dashboard camera in the vehicle involved in the Dec. 26, 2021 incident. The Boynton Beach Police Department reiterated that the vehicle involved was not equipped with a dashboard camera."