A Broward Sheriff's deputy seen in body camera footage punching a suspect who was handcuffed to a hospital bed is being accused of excessive force by the public defender's office.
The allegations stem from the January 1 arrest of 27-year-old David Rafferty O'Connell by Deputy Jorge Sobrino on charges of disorderly conduct, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer without violence.
The Broward Public Defender's Office released Sobrino's body cam footage on Wednesday, which shows the deputy with O'Connell at Broward Health North after O'Connell was arrested at a Walmart in Pompano Beach. An arrest report said O'Connell and a woman were arrested at the Walmart after they were suspected of trying to fraudulently return ink cartridges.
In the footage, O'Connell repeatedly says he wants to leave the hospital, but Sobrino tells him that he has to be medically cleared per department policy. O'Connell has his right hand handcuffed to a hospital bed while he waits for a doctor to examine him.
At one point, O'Connell has to urinate and kneels in the bed to use a urinal. The public defender's office said O'Connell inadvertently spilled urine on himself and the bed and had to reposition himself to avoid the urine.
After that, O'Connell gets back on his knees and again says that he doesn't want to stay in the hospital and starts cursing at Sobrino, the video shows. Sobrino then moves in, punches O'Connell, and handcuffs his other arm to the bed.
"While awaiting medical clearance, the defendant began yelling inside the hospital and attempting to stand from his hospital bed. When attempting to seat the defendant down on the hospital bed and further restrain him, the defendant intentionally placed his hand on my upper chest against my will and pushed me, there for [sic] committing a battery against my person," Sobrino wrote in the arrest report.
In a letter sent to Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony this week, Broward public defender Howard Finkelstein and executive chief assistant public defender Gordon Weekes said O'Connell didn't push Sobrino in the chest.
"Deputy Sobrino's version of the incident vastly differs from the facts as displayed in the video. The video shows clear police abuse," the letter reads. "Deputy Sobrino punched Mr. O'Connell in the face without physical provocation because he was frustrated with Mr. O'Connell. Punching a restrained individual who is not physically aggressive is unacceptable."
Finkelstein and Weekes claim Sobrino fabricated his police report, and said they want an investigation into the matter and want Sobrino to face charges of battery and falsifying a report.
"It's clear that he exceeded the level of force that was necessary by punching him in the face. But when he then went and arrested him for battery on a law enforcement officer, when there were no facts to suggest that the battery had occurred, he was then trying to protect himself from his own wrongdoing," Weekes told NBC 6 on Wednesday.
BSO officials said Sobrino, who has been with the department since January 2015, remains on regular duty.
"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," BSO spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright said in a statement Wednesday.
Weekes said prosecutors dropped the battery on a law enforcement officer charge against O'Connell on the day trial was supposed to start. The only charge that remains is a resisting arrest charge from the incident at Walmart.