Broward County

Bodycam showed deputy punching man handcuffed to hospital bed. BSO is investigating

Video shows Broward deputy punching man handcuffed to hospital bed

Bodycam footage shows a Jan. 1 confrontation in a Broward Health North hospital room between Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Jorge Sobrino and David O'Connell, who was under arrest for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.
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Bodycam footage shows a Jan. 1 confrontation in a Broward Health North hospital room between Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Jorge Sobrino and David O'Connell, who was under arrest for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.

Bodycam footage released Wednesday shows a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy punching an arrested man in the face while the man remained handcuffed to a hospital bed.

Deputy Jorge Sobrino claimed in the arrest paperwork that 27-year-old Boca Raton resident David O’Connell initiated the physical part of the encounter by pushing him in the chest, “therefore committing a battery against my person.”

An April 23 letter from the Broward Public Defender’s office demanded Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony investigate what the office described as Sobrino’s “excessive force and falsifying of charges” in the New Year’s Day incident.

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes said, “Deputy Sobrino’s version of the incident vastly differs from the acts as displayed in the video. The video shows clear police abuse.”

In an email to the Miami Herald, BSO spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright wrote, “Our Division of Internal Affairs immediately opened a preliminary investigation after receiving a letter today from the Office of the Public Defender lodging a complaint about use of force during an arrest incident that occurred back on Jan. 1, 2019.”

This is the third incident since February in which a BSO deputy’s actions caught on video have met harsh criticism.

In February, the Broward Public Defender’s office excoriated Deputy James Cady after a 2017 video surfaced that showed Cady screaming at a calm father and demanding identification as the man held his infant child and told Cady his name.

Deputies involved in the violent takedown of a 15-year-old at a Tamarac McDonald’s last week have been suspended with pay during an internal affairs investigation.

Sobrino and O’Connell first came together that day at the Walmart at 5001 N. Federal Hwy. in Pompano Beach. BSO was called after Walmart security claimed O’Connell and Andrea Yacaman were taking ink cartridges off shelves, then trying to return the cartridges at customer service as if they had bought them.

In his description of the incident, Sobrino wrote that when he got there, O’Connell was “screaming and moving around frantically, drawing a crowd around him as Walmart employees were attempting to keep him away from the store and customers.”

Sobrino said he and a deputy trainee grabbed O’Connell, who continued to fight to be free. Sobrino described throwing O’Connell down and O’Connell countering by tensing his arms as he fought arrest.

“I then struck the subject multiple times in the face with a closed fist in order to gain pain compliance,” Sobrino wrote. “After striking the subject (the deputy trainee) and I were able to forcibly pull his arms behind his back and begin to handcuff the subject.”

After O’Connell was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting an officer without violence, he was taken to Broward Health North for medical clearance for injuries to his face, as is BSO policy.

Bodycam footage picks up with O’Connell in a hospital room with Sobrino and the deputy trainee. It appears Sobrino removes the body camera off his body and puts it on a counter in the room. O’Connell’s right arm gets handcuffed to the hospital bed.

O’Connell repeatedly says he doesn’t want to be there, and after his blood pressure is taken, he needs to urinate. The video shows that he’s given a plastic bottle and he turns around on his knees, still handcuffed, to urinate.

In the letter to Tony, the public defenders say O’Connell accidentally got some urine on the bed, which was why he slid down to the foot of the bed. The video shows O’Connell lying on his side for about four minutes at the foot of the bed.

O’Connell rises and again tells Sobrino several times, “I don’t want to be here. I want to sign off,” then yells it several times out the door toward hospital staff. Sobrino closes the door “to reduce the effects of O’Connell’s yelling,” he wrote.

“What, now, you’re going to beat my ass again?” O’Connell asks several times.

Sobrino answers with “sit downs” and “shut ups” salted with an expletive. Once, he replies with “I will if I have to” as O’Connell shouts “He’s going to beat my ass! He’s going to beat my ass!”

O’Connell then sits on the edge of the bed and, three times, answers Sobrino’s “sit downs” and “shut ups” with, “F--- you.”

Sobrino walks over, lifts and tosses O’Connell’s legs onto the bed and hits O’Connell with a right fist to the face. The tossing of the legs and the punch take one second. The camera angle obstructs O’Connell’s left arm and hand, which would’ve been the hand in Sobrino’s chest.

Sobrino eventually twists O’Connell’s left arm behind him, allowing Sobrino to handcuff the left wrist. He eventually finishes handcuffing O’Connell’s left arm to the hospital bed. The public defenders described this as “attempts to further restrain an already subdued Mr. O’Connell by twisting his arm behind his back.”

Sobrino said he walked over to handcuff O’Connell’s left hand to the bed. He wrote he “approached O’Connell and again gave him several commands to sit down on the bed correctly, in order for me to be able to secure his free hand without the need for force. O’Connell ignored my commands, continuously stating “F--- you.”

The deputy’s description seems to diverge from the bodycam footage when he says O’Connell “lifted his free hand and pushed me on my upper chest in order to keep me away from him” before Sobrino punched him in the face.

O’Connell eventually pleaded no contest to resisting arrest without violence and was fined $358. The battery on a law enforcement officer charge was dismissed and the disorderly conduct charge was dropped for insufficient evidence.

BSO Deputy Association president Jeff Bell had just become aware of the incident and said he wanted to look into it before commenting.