A Broward sheriff’s deputy and reality TV star was arrested Saturday for assaulting a teenager who annoyed his girlfriend, the sheriff’s office said.
The deputy, Gerald Wengert, 33, was booked at the Broward County jail on Saturday, according to a news release from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Wengert, a dog-handler who appeared on The Learning Channel’s Unleashed: K-9 Broward County, was charged with battery, falsifying records and official misconduct. He was suspended without pay.
BSO says Wengert “acted inappropriately” during a traffic stop in Cooper City in December of 2010, when he arrested Mark Visconti, then 17, for resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. Wengert said he saw Visconti backing up on Stirling Road, which prompted him to arrest the teen.
According to an arrest affidavit submitted by BSO internal affairs investigators, however, what happened was this:
Visconti was driving with a friend when he spotted two other friends walking on Stirling Road. He backed up and pulled onto Southwest 99th Terrace, parallel with two other cars. Wengert’s girlfriend, Jessica Mercer, was driving nearby and became angry at Visconti. She told Visconti she was calling the cops, when she was actually on the phone with Wengert.
Wengert and Mercer remained on the phone while Visconti and his friends entered a nearby Wendy’s plaza. Wengert was seen speeding by at least two witnesses. He arrived in the plaza while still on the phone with Mercer, but confronted Visconti, who had come out of the restaurant and was sitting in his car. Wengert followed Visconti out of the parking lot, prompting the teen to pull over about half a mile from the plaza.
Wengert came up to the car, yelling expletives at Visconti. The deputy opened the door and threw Visconti up against the side of his car. Visconti tried to calm Wengert down, but the deputy punched him several times, while Visconti never hit Wengert, according to a witness. Wengert put Visconti in a headlock and released his police dog on him.
The deputy then called for assistance. Visconti was taken to the hospital because his face and legs were hurt.
“When we get a complaint, or there is some sign of wrongdoing, we investigate and take action if policies were violated or laws were broken,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said in the news release. “It bothers me that we have nearly 6,000 dedicated employees doing the right thing every day and people hear more about the mistakes and misdeeds of a few. But regardless of the effect, we are not going to sweep anything under the rug.”