TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – It started over a tinted license plate cover. Now Tampa police officer Kevin Fitzpatrick is under investigation and the 34-year-old woman he body slammed wants justice. Not only does the Tampa Police Department have to explain what happened on this dash-cam video, both police and prosecutors need to fess up about why they claimed this video didn’t exist.
It was Nov. 5, 7:30 in the morning. Tampa police officer Kevin Fitzpatrick claims when he approached Liz Vargas about an obscured license plate, she immediately became argumentative.
Dash-cam video captured in his cruiser shows within 34 seconds of approaching Vargas, Fitzpatrick is struggling to put handcuffs on her. Vargas is screaming for help, crying out she is being abused. Then, Fitzpatrick body slams her.
“You know I wasn’t offensive, I wasn’t hurting him, I wasn’t you know, hit him. I’m not a person like that,” Liz Vargas said. According to officer Fitzpatrick’s report, Vargas repeatedly ignored his requests for her license and registration.
“It was in my glove compartment, I was telling him, but he was actually screaming at me he didn’t give me a chance,” she said. Fitzpatrick took Vargas into custody for obtructing a police officer and resisting arrest without violence
“She was never told, you’re being placed under arrest for X, Y, or Z, he just grabbed her arm, yanked it behind her, slammed her to the ground,” Vargas’ attorney Brett stated. The 34 year old mother of four suffered multiple facial, shoulder and back injuries.
The next day she asked Tampa police to investigate officer Fitzpatrick. Szematowicz asked for video of the incident. Court records show the state and TPD said there was none. But a private investigator confirmed the tape existed.
“They lied about it,” Vargas said. The state attorney’s office told 8 On Your Side that it became aware in April, that the video existed.
So then that begs the question, if they knew about it in April, why did Liz Vargas’ attorneys have to file a motion to compel in late June? The state attorney’s office is checking on that.
“When they are intentionally withholding evidence in a criminal prosecution, and you’re withholding that evidence, that doesn’t get much more serious,” Szematowicz said.
Tampa police say there’s an internal investigation on going so they won’t talk. According to Vargas’ attorney, the internal affairs investigation became a negotiating point. “If Liz agreed to drop the internal affairs report, they’ll agree to drop the charges,” Szematowicz stated.
She refused, prosecutors dropped the charges away. Another question is why was Fitzpatrick’s microphone off? It was supposed to be on.
According to T-P-D’s standard operating procedures, an officer is allowed to manually deactivate the microphone during a non-enforcement activity, such as protecting a traffic crash scene. Otherwise it’s required to be on.