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Delray Beach woman plans to sue city, claims officer assaulted her during domestic abuse response

Posted at 5:35 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-24 17:19:40-05

A Delray beach woman claims she was assaulted twice in one day, first by her boyfriend and then by a Delray Beach Police Officer. 

The woman whom we are not identifying said when she called 911 last July as a domestic abuse victim, she thought she would be safe. 
Instead, she claims she was further assaulted so now she plans to sue the city of Delray Beach. 

It was before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning when three officers responded to the domestic disturbance in Delray Beach. 

"I thought they were going to help me and it became apparent very quickly that they weren't," said the woman.

You can hear the officer, in the body camera video, questioning the woman who called for help. 

"Where you're saying he's hit you, your face, isn't even red at all," Officer Matthew Warne tells the woman. 

"I'll have a black eye tomorrow," she responds in tears. 

Officer Warne then tries to convince the woman to stay in the home, with the man she says she fears. 

Meanwhile, the other officers on scene begin to arrest the boyfriend for refusing to put on handcuffs to ensure the officers' safety while they investigate. 

"You (expletive) idiot, now you're going to jail you (expletive)," said Warne to the man being put in handcuffs.  

When Officer Warne notices the woman is coming out of her home and walking to her porch, he runs towards her and forces her back into the house. 

She tells him twice that he's hurting her. 

Officer Warne is seen pushing her in the home and shutting the door. 
Seconds later, she opens it and he turns around to push her in. There's a struggle visible in the body camera video and it ends with the officer pushing the woman down to the floor, not breaking her fall. 
When he walks away, he curses at her and calls her a vulgar term.

"I felt afraid of him, I felt total disdain from him, he was angry, he was not at all sympathetic, empathetic, or compassionate," said the woman. 

"I would have felt safer in jail than I felt at my house at that moment."

Law enforcement expert Andrew Scott reviewed the body camera video and was concerned to hear the officer suggest the alleged domestic abuse victim and her boyfriend stay in the same home in separate rooms. 

"What you have is, you know, you come back to a homicide," said Scott. 

When Officer Warne runs towards the woman to force her back in the home, Scott believed the officer did not give the woman commands to stay back and not interfere before he rushed at her. 

She never left the carport on her property.

"That concerns me, because the hands-on was not necessary and he did not provide the appropriate verbal direction," he added. 

Then, when the officer pushes her back in the home and she falls to the floor, he curses at her. 

"I'm concerned about that because he's angry," said Scott.

"At this point, I'm watching the video going, 'I can't believe this officer did this.' This is just wrong, you don't treat the victim of a crime like this," said Valentin Rodriguez, the woman's attorney. "To add insult to injury he then curses at her, very vulgar, sexist remarks he makes to her." 

"What happened to me was inexcusable, I am now more fearful of the police than I am of anyone else," said the woman. 

Two months after the incident, Delray Beach Police arrested the woman for assault on an officer, battery, and resisting an officer. 

The charges were dropped.

The Delray Beach Police Department says the officer self-reported the physical incident and an internal affairs investigation was opened. The investigation determined the use of force was justified, but that "the officer violated the department's conduct toward the public." 

In a statement from the department, the Chief Jeff Goldman said:

"“Domestic violence calls can be extremely dangerous as emotions are high, people are antagonistic and sometimes, as in the July 15 incident, alcohol is involved. It falls to officers to keep victims and abusers separated at the scene for everyone’s safety. In this case, an internal affairs investigation was initiated after the officer reported the incident himself to his supervisors. Internal affairs investigators determined that, though the officer violated the department’s “conduct toward the public” policy, for which he received discipline, his use of force was appropriate. As chief of police, I do not condone his unprofessional language or demeanor. The officer has received no previous, similar discipline.”    

The officer was reprimanded. 

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