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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Internal Affairs Probes Conflicting Reports Of Excessive Force

Internal-affairs probe: Police reports at odds over whether excessive force used
The Orlando Sentinel by Rene Stutzman - January 15, 2012

LAKE MARY, FL — Tucked inside the internal-affairs report about Lake Mary police Officer Christopher Dye grabbing a drunk by the neck and throwing him against a truck is another revelation: Another officer wrote up what she saw and was told by managers at the Lake Mary Police Department and Seminole County Sheriff's Office to write a new report that said nothing about excessive force. Seminole County Deputy Celinas Rios did and three days later told a Lake Mary internal-affairs investigator that her second report includes lies. One of the lies, she said, was that Dye had a valid reason to arrest the drunk. Here's what happened: Sean DeSilva, 28, of Orlando, owns Bermuda Triangle Bar in Lake Mary. On Halloween night at closing time, more than a dozen of his customers wound up in the alley. One man had cuts to his face and said he'd been punched by someone inside. Dye, two other Lake Mary officers and Rios tried to sort out what had happened. DeSilva stepped into the bar's back door, blocking it, Dye wrote in his arrest report. DeSilva was belligerent and wouldn't move when ordered, so Dye pushed him, Dye wrote. DeSilva was jailed, accused of resisting arrest without violence and disorderly intoxication, charges that have now been dropped. But Rios told a Lake Mary internal-affairs investigator that DeSilva was not resisting. She had taken his hand and was leading him away when Dye came charging toward them. DeSilva wound up slammed into the side of a pickup, leaving a big dent. Lake Mary police Sgt. Joe Gowen and Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kristen Bates asked Rios to write what happened, but when they saw the details about excessive force, they asked her to write another version without those details. She felt she had no other choice, she told a Lake Mary internal-affairs investigator. Gowen and Bates corroborated Rios' account. Gowen had gone to the bar that night and listened to two of its customers complain that Dye had used excessive force. He wanted the information taken out of the arrest report because he didn't want DeSilva or the general public to read about it, he told the internal-affairs investigator. He did not, however, hide the allegations from Lake Mary police managers. He had already begun gathering evidence for the internal-affairs investigation that he suspected Dye would face, and it began immediately, said Lake Mary police Chief Steve Bracknell. During the internal-affairs investigation's early stages, Lake Mary police Lt. David Prince discovered that Dye had gone into a city-county software program and deleted Rios' first report. He is now awaiting trial on evidence-tampering charges. He was not investigated for the possible assault or battery on DeSilva because DeSilva wasn't willing to cooperate, said Bracknell. Dye told an internal-affairs investigator that he had pushed DeSilva but not wrapped his hands around the man's neck. Dye's lawyer, Kepler Funk, would not talk about the excessive-force allegations but said his client did not tamper with evidence. The Sheriff's Office would not answer questions about why Rios wrote the pared-down report or why her boss, Bates, told her to write it then signed off on the rewritten version. It has an internal-affairs investigation of its own under way, said agency spokeswoman Kim Cannaday. She would not disclose who it involved but said both Rios and Bates were at work at their normal assignments. It is not Sheriff's Office policy to delete from reports information that may be damaging to law-enforcement officers, she wrote in an email. Dye currently is on paid leave. Lake Mary City Manager Jackie Sova is expected to decide soon, perhaps this week, whether to fire him. That is the recommendation of the police chief. or 407-650-6394

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