Jail deputy suspended after fight with Black teen

Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 17:23:39-04

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) -- A White Florida jail deputy has been suspended following a fight that led to a Black teen being hospitalized, officials said.

Sarasota County Deputy Neil Pizzo was placed on administrative leave Friday pending an internal affairs investigation, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. The confrontation with the 17-year-old boy occurred Sept. 1 at the Sarasota County Juvenile Assessment Center.

Sheriff Tom Knight said he was disturbed after watching a surveillance video of the fight.

"I feel that I am disappointed in what I saw," Knight said.

The teen had been arrested on drug charges and other counts, officials said. He was participating in a police lineup when deputies said he became uncooperative.

A soundless surveillance video shows Pizzo and the teen argue from across a room. As Pizzo walks toward the teen, the teen jumps to his feet.

Pizzo wrote in his report that the teen had threatened to kill him and that he believed the teen was taking a fighting stance as he approached.

The video shows Pizzo grab the teen's neck area with one hand and strikes him with the other. The two struggle to the ground as another deputy enters the room. The video shows Pizzo strike the teen several more times with an open hand. Pizzo then restrains the teen's hands behind his back.

The teen was taken to a nearby hospital for abrasions to his head, according to the sheriff's office report.

Knight said he was concerned about the lack of de-escalation techniques used by his deputy.

"If a deputy is trying to de-escalate and you go hands on and you have a confrontation, what did he attempt to do prior to the physical confrontation to prevent it from happening?" Knight said.

Knight said the investigation will determine what drove the incident, but he doesn't believe it was driven by race.