By Terry Spencer Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida sheriff placed a deputy on restricted duty Friday after cellphone video showed the deputy banging the head of a pepper-sprayed teen against the ground.
Deputy Christopher Krickovich was ordered to surrender his gun and badge until an investigation into Thursday's fight is complete, said Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony. He took office in January after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Scott Israel for his handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
"We will look at this as a fact-finding measure to make sure we hold folks accountable," Tony said in a videotaped statement.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen called for Krickovich to be fired and another deputy disciplined, saying on Twitter that their conduct was "outrageous & unacceptable."
But Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, criticized Tony's decision, saying Krickovich and his colleagues were implementing the aggressive police tactics the new sheriff has pushed. After the Stoneman Douglas shooting, deputies were disciplined for not charging into the school.
Bell, a longtime Israel critic, said the self-defense training Tony instituted has been so aggressive that the union had to file a grievance because deputies suffered concussions, broken bones and one a brain bleed.
"They did exactly what they were trained to do," Bell said. He said Krickovich and the other deputies were surrounded by 200 students and feared for their safety. Instead of reacting to the video posted on social media, he said Tony should release the deputies' body camera video, which he said would show why they reacted as they did.
The video taken by a student and posted on social media shows Krickovich and Sgt. Greg Lacerra amid a crowd of mostly African American students from J.P. Taravella High School after a fight outside a suburban Fort Lauderdale McDonald's. Krickovich wrote in his report that because of a large fight Wednesday at the shopping center where the restaurant is located, the two were stationed there Thursday in case of a new eruption. Bell said the Tamarac plaza is a longtime afterschool trouble spot, with students threatening and harassing the mostly elderly clientele.
Krickovich said Thursday's fight ended before deputies could get there. He said as the crowd dispersed, Lacerra noticed a teen who had been told to stay out of the plaza after Wednesday's fight. Krickovich said he arrested the teen for trespassing and put him on the ground, causing the teen to drop his cellphone. He said a teen in a red tank top picked it up.
This is where the video begins. It shows Lacerra pushing the teen in the red tank top in the head as he stands up. The teen turns sideways and appears to say something to Lacerra, who pepper-sprays his face and throws him to the ground. Krickovich jumps on the teen, twice slamming his forehead and punching him. A third deputy helps Krickovich pin the teen's arms behind his back to be handcuffed as the video ends.
Krickovich said he pushed down on the teen because he was trying to get up and he feared the teen would try to fight him or flee.
"The three of us were outnumbered by the large group of students who were yelling, threatening us and surrounding us," Krickovich wrote. "I had to act quickly, fearing I would get struck or having a student potentially grab weapons off my belt."
The teen, whose name was not released, was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing.