Clearwater police officer fired for excessive force

Clearwater Police Department

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – A Clearwater cop is out of the job after police say he used excessive force when arresting a 13-year-old boy.

It happened on the morning of April 2 outside of the Family Resources youth home on Union Street.

Staffers called 911 to report an out of control teenager who was breaking objects and punching another teen.

Officer Michael Leonardo and two others came to the shelter to take the teen into custody. The teen was handcuffed and headed to the squad car when police say the arrest turned violent.

Surveillance footage shows Officer Leonardo try to take down the teen before he throws him to the pavement, hard.

Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter believes Officer Leonardo used excessive force to control the teen.

“I take no pleasure in dismissing a father, and telling him that he doesn’t have a job anymore. But people are held accountable for their decisions” said Chief Slaughter. “When you have an juvenile who is 5’ 6”, 150, and officer who’s 5’ 8”, 200 pounds, and 2 other officers there, we should be able to control that prisoner on the way to the car without having to go to a takedown.”

The chief is also concerned with how the teen was removed from the squad car by the two other officers, and how he was spoken to while he waited for paramedics and writhed in pain.

But Slaughter still considers the take-down to be the most problematic aspect of the encounter. “The officer has to pick that amount of force which is the least amount necessary,” said Chief Slaughter.

Leonardo spent eight years in the army, serving in Afghanistan and Korea. After the incident, he allegedly told the chief, “after reviewing the video, I do see that I had better options.”

Police say the teen was left with a broken nose, chipped teeth and cuts on his face. He has had numerous run-ins with the cops, according to police, and doesn’t have close family.

Police say the teen mouthed off to staffers at the home, and cursed the officers, repeatedly, but according to Chief Slaughter, none of that matters.

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