Pinellas deputy fired, accused of using excessive force & falsifying report

Still frame from video provided by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
Still frame from video provided by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been fired for using excessive force and falsifying a report, officials said Friday.

Wayne Wagner, 28, was hired by the department on Oct. 20, 2014. He was terminated Friday.

Officials said Wagner used excessive force during a March 25, 2016, traffic stop. The stop occurred around 9:40 p.m. at 10021 4th St. N in St. Petersburg.

Wagner conducted a lawful stop, a sheriff’s office spokesperson said. He instructed the female driver to exit her vehicle, according to the department.

“Investigators say that the female occupant exited the vehicle and took her license back from Wagner. When the woman turned to walk away, Wagner pushed the woman into the side of the vehicle and took her to the ground,” the spokesperson said.

The now-former deputy arrested the woman, charging her with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence. In a sheriff’s office report, Wagner wrote the woman ripped the driver’s license from his hands and shoved him in the chest, officials said.

The victim complained after the incident, and investigators with the Administrative Investigation Division started reviewing the case.

Investigators obtained both dash camera video and surveillance video from a gas station. “The investigation substantiated that Wagner used excessive force to arrest the woman and he falsified a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office offense report to support his allegations,” the spokesperson said.

“As the video clearly shows, is that (the suspect) did not touch Deputy Wagner at all,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

Gualtieri talked about the incident Friday.

“It is clear, unfortunately, that Deputy Wagner lied and didn’t tell the truth about what happened out there. And that he used unnecessary force when he slammed her against the car,” the sheriff said. “Everybody, especially a deputy sheriff, has to tell the truth. You don’t tell the truth, you don’t work here. It’s that simple.”

“There is absolutely no room for a deputy sheriff to not tell the truth and not to own up to it and not accept responsibility if they do make mistake,” the sheriff added.

The victim’s attorney also addressed the incident. “What really saved the issue is, in this matter was, the video, and ultimately that justice prevailed,” Chris Beardslee said. “I’m please to see (the victim’s) name cleared, as it should have been. She’s never been in trouble with the law before … is a law abiding citizen.”

“She is ya know, very  pleased at the result. This is still difficult for her. She did sustain injuries in this matter. And this is something that she still holds concerns, ya know, still gets nervous around law enforcement,” Beardslee added.

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