Florida corrections officer accused of battery on inmate

File photo of a prison cell.
Posted at 12:27 PM, Nov 30, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- A corrections sergeant is accused of slapping, punching and pushing a jail inmate as well as pulling out a clump of the man's hair, officials said.

Pinellas County Sgt. Patrick Knight, 51, was arrested Monday on charges of battery and official misconduct, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference. Knight is accused of lying about the incident.

According to the sheriff, Terrell Johnson, 41, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Nov. 18. He became agitated the next day during an initial medical screening. He was then handcuffed and put in a single cell.

Knight was near the cell when Johnson began kicking the door and screaming, the sheriff said. Another employee, Cpl. Jameson Jessie was also nearby and both officers entered the cell.

Detectives said the inmate turned to show them that his handcuffs were too tight, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Then Knight pushed Johnson, slamming him to the ground "without provocation," the sheriff said.

According to the report, Johnson's head hit a cement bunk as he fell and Knight grabbed him by the hair and pinned him against the wall. A clump of the inmate's hair fell out.

Johnson asked why the sergeant hit him and Knight responded that the inmate "went too far," a sheriff's report said.

"Johnson did nothing at all that justified Sgt. Knight's actions," the sheriff said during the news conference. "It doesn't matter who you are or what you did, he didn't deserve to get treated that way."

Johnson has recovered from his injuries, the sheriff said.

Knight reported the use of force and wrote an incident report. But Lt. Priscilla Campbell noted that there were inconsistencies between Knight's description of what happened and the physical evidence, the sheriff said.

While Knight said he pulled the inmate's hair, he failed to mention hitting him. He also said he pushed Johnson to the ground because the inmate was trying to kick him, which was not true, the sheriff said.

The account of Jessie, the other officer who witnessed the incident, was initially consistent with Knight's description. But a few hours later, he told Campbell that he felt Knight's actions were not justified, according to the sheriff.

At that point, Campbell notified commanders and an investigation was launched.

Knight resigned a few days after the investigation began, and he was arrested Monday. He was released from jail after posting a $2,500 bond. A lawyer who could speak on his behalf was not listed on records.