INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A 39-year-old corrections deputy was jailed, then terminated, after surveillance video showed him using pepper spray three times on an inmate who was compliant, deputies said.
“Our deputies are tasked with the responsibility of using force in a judicious manner. I expect my team to use force, when necessary, in a manner consistent with our policies, the law, and the standard of reasonableness. When that is done, I will support their actions,” Sheriff Eric Flowers said in a statement. “However, that was not the case here. This now former employee did not meet the high standards of the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.”
The sheriff’s office released the footage of the Dec. 10 incident Wednesday on Facebook.
Keefe Roman was charged with battery. Roman was released Monday from the Indian River County Jail on $2,500 bond.
Roman’s booking photo and address were not listed on the sheriff’s jail site. Personal records for current and former law enforcement officers are exempt from being disclosed under Florida law.
The incident at the jail prompted an internal affairs criminal investigation. Roman had been placed on administrative leave Dec. 16 pending the outcome of the probe, sheriff’s officials said.
The situation unfolded when Roman began arguing with an inmate, a man whose identity was not released. When Roman ordered the man to sit on a bench inside a room, the man complied, sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies said “Roman could have secured the room, thus correcting the potential disruptive situation. However, he remained in the open doorway and continued to engage with the inmate.”
The man did not take an aggressive stance toward Roman, video footage showed. The man remained seated with his hands in his lap and body facing away from Roman.
Deputies said Roman then used pepper spray on the man three times “to avoid any act of potential violence from occurring.” Roman told investigators he used the spray multiple times because he did not think the first spray was effective, officials said.
Pepper spray contains oleoresin capsicum, or OC, which can cause temporary blindness and a painful burning sensation in the eyes and mouth. The man was taken to the medical unit for treatment.
Deputies arrested Roman Monday. He was fired Tuesday morning, sheriff’s officials said.
Roman began working for the sheriff’s office last September. He previously worked as a corrections deputy at another unspecified agency.
Roman has an arraignment at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 9, court records show.
No further details were immediately available.