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A police sergeant in Sunrise, Florida, has been relieved of his supervisory duties and is under investigation after being seen on body-cam footage grabbing a fellow officer by the throat after that officer intervened to pull him away from a suspect.
The incident took place back on Nov. 19, when Sgt. Christopher Pullease put his hands on a female officer’s throat after she grabbed him by his service belt while he was engaged with a suspect sitting inside a patrol car.
“Once the suspect was inside the patrol vehicle, the sergeant approached and engaged in a verbal altercation with the suspect in a manner that I feel was inappropriate and unprofessional,” Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa said in a written statement, according to WPLG Local 10. “This supervisor escalated the encounter instead of de-escalating an emotionally charged situation.”
The suspect, Jean Bernard Similien, was resisting arrest after allegedly battering several people, to include police officers who were trying to place him in the patrol car, the ABC affiliate reported.
Officer Pullease can be seen in the footage holding a can of pepper spray while interacting with Similien, but the officer didn’t use it.
That is when the other officer, who has not been identified, reacted out of concern that things were escalating too far, running up behind Pullease and grabbing his belt to pull him away from the suspect — Pullease quickly turns and aggressively grabs the officer by the neck while pushing her up against another patrol car while other officers on the scene looked on.
Chief Rosa was complimentary of the officer who intervened, saying he was proud of her actions, according to WPLG Local 10.
“I am very proud of the officer involved in this incident and believe that the actions taken were definitive and demonstrative of good leadership during a tense situation,” Rosa said.
He told WSVN 7News that Sunrise officers are instructed to “de-escalate emotionally charged situations.”
“This officer intervening and stopping a situation from getting any worse is a direct reflection of the training that we do do with the police department, and I think that it’s important to note that the behavior is very unacceptable by the sergeant, but the behavior of the officer that intervened is exactly what society’s asking their police officers to do right now,” he said.
When asked why Pullease hasn’t faced any charges in the incident, the police chief replied, “So there’s some details of the investigation that I’ve not disclosed, that I’m unable to disclose right now, and if any of the information that comes up during the investigation rises to a level of criminal behavior or criminal conduct, then we’ll address it appropriately.”
“I’m not releasing the audio at this moment in time,” Rosa added. “However, once the investigation is done, I’m committed to being completely open and transparent and everything will be released.”
WSVN noted that they looked into Sgt. Pullease’s internal affairs history with Sunrise Police, reporting that he “had two allegations of excessive use of force nearly 20 years ago. He was cleared on both.”
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