An independent, outside review of an altercation at the Volusia County Branch Jail in April found no evidence that corrections officers used excessive force while gaining control of a combative inmate.
The incident occurred after corrections officers responded to a fight between two inmates on April 26 inside the jail cell they shared. One of the inmates immediately complied with the officers who responded to the fight. But the other was uncooperative, refusing to be handcuffed, escorted from the cell or comply with the lawful commands given by the officers. While attempting to gain control, officers placed the inmate against the wall of the cell and ultimately took him to the ground by force and struck him during the struggle that ensued. The Volusia County Public Protection Department interviewed about a dozen employees as well as the inmate during an internal investigation of the incident, ultimately concluding that allegations of excessive force against the six involved officers were either unfounded or not sustained.
While the county’s internal investigation was closed on Aug. 1, County Manager George Recktenwald decided to re-open it and seek an independent review of the case after Corrections Director Mark Flowers alleged a cover up and questioned the quality of the interviews that were conducted during the investigation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reviewed the case file and the county’s interviews and also conducted their own interview with the inmate involved in the altercation with the officers. While the inmate sustained black eyes, he was punched in the face two times by his cellmate before the officers had responded to the incident.
After concluding its investigation, FDLE asked the State Attorney’s Office to review the findings. In a Dec. 21, 2022 memo, Assistant State Attorney Ashley Terwilleger said she had reviewed the evidence and concluded that “I find insufficient evidence to proceed and no further action is warranted by this office.”
In a statement from the county manager, Recktenwald said he was pleased that the review found no problems with the county’s internal investigation.
“The fact that the review by the State Attorney’s Office of the interviews, evidence and circumstances came to the very same conclusion shows that we were thorough and transparent in our investigation,” said Recktenwald. “We appreciate the detailed and professional manner in which our internal affairs staff conducted the investigation. The suggestion that our investigation was handled in anything less than an appropriate and exemplary manner has been proven to be false.”