A veteran Broward Sheriff's Office deputy who was a vocal critic of Sheriff Gregory Tony has been fired nearly two years after he was accused of using excessive force during an arrest that was caught on camera.
Deputy Ronald Thurston, who has been with BSO for more than 22 years, was fired Friday, Tony announced in a statement.
According to Tony, the investigation into Thurston began following an April 1, 2020 incident in North Lauderdale involving a suspect who initially refused to cooperate with Thurston’s lawful commands and attempted to flee.
After Thurston pulled his gun and threatened to shoot him, the man complied and immediately got on the ground face down, Tony said.
Thurston kept his knee on the man’s neck, even after the man expressed discomfort and asked Thurston to remove his knee, Tony said.
BSO released Thurston's body camera footage that showed the encounter with the suspect and other deputies arriving at the scene.
While the suspect was being searched, a gun was found in his pocket, and another officer's body camera captured Thurston slamming the handcuffed suspect's head into a BSO vehicle with his forearm, Tony said.
"My reaction was this was needed. The officer came with malicious intent and he violated every protocol that was produced for the officers to follow," said the man who was arrested in the bodycam video.
BSO Public Corruption Unit detectives began investigating the incident but the Broward State Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Thurston.
BSO’s Professional Standards Committee recommended a three-day suspension for Thurston, but Tony chose to fire him.
"The Broward Sheriff’s Office will not tolerate any excessive use of force," Tony said in the statement. "In this case, a veteran deputy, Ronald Thurston, was called to a situation involving a man in North Lauderdale and made a series of choices that escalated the call and led to his firing."
Tony said Thurston's actions "were egregious and do not reflect our agency’s training and de-escalation tactics. His actions show that he possesses neither the temperament nor the decision-making ability to wear a badge and carry a gun."
The sheriff said Thurston also gave a statement on the incident and was asked if he could do things differently.
"I probably would have killed him right there, and we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it," Thurston said, according to Tony.
Thurston has been a vocal critic of Tony and was an outspoken supporter of the man Tony replaced, Scott Israel, actively campaigning for Israel when he sought to reclaim the position in the 2020 Democratic Primary.
Thurston had been placed on administrative duty in 2020 amid an investigation into comments he made on social media criticizing diversity at BSO.
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