Davie officer suspended for grabbing boy skateboarding in street

(SUN SENTINAL)   DAVIE – A rookie police officer accused of slamming a 10-year-old boy against his cruiser for skateboarding in the street has received a two-day suspension and been ordered to attend anger management classes.

“He threw him like he was a rag doll,” said the boy’s father, Joseph Smith, who witnessed the April 6, 2008 incident and filed a complaint the next day.

Smith says his son was left with a cut on his knee, a bruise on his chest and a fear of police.

Officer David Rodriguez, 25, declined to comment through his lawyer. But in December he told internal affairs investigator Sgt. Kelly Drum the boy never made contact with his patrol car, according to newly released records.

The Sun Sentinel is not naming the boy because of his age.

After interviewing witnesses, Drum said Rodriguez was guilty of “improper use of force” and failing to file a “use of force” police report. Drum closed his investigation on Jan. 9.

John Fry, the officer’s attorney, chalked it up to a miscommunication between Rodriguez and the boy’s father.

“He doesn’t feel he did anything wrong,” Fry said of Rodriguez, who was hired in October 2006 and earns $56,326 per year. “He pulled a kid out of the street. There were different takes on what took place.”

Rodriguez was facing a battery charge, but Broward prosecutors closed the case on Nov. 17 after both parties agreed to mediation and the boy’s father decided not to press charges.

Smith, 45, said he didn’t want to put his son through more trauma.

According to Drum’s report, the boy was skateboarding in front of his home when the officer pulled up and told him to ride in the cul de sac.

The boy told Rodriguez his father wanted him to ride near the house where he could watch him. At that point, according to the boy and his father, who was watching from inside the house, Rodriguez jumped out of his cruiser, grabbed the boy by one arm and slammed his chest against the car.

Smith said he immediately dashed outside to defend his 65-pound son, who had burst into tears.

“The cop told me, ‘I’m the authority and no one tells me no,'” Smith said last week outside his Orange Park home. Smith said his son’s feet were dangling in the air while Rodriguez had him pinned against the car.

Neighbor Michael Santo JimRusti, now 15, said he saw the same thing. “The cop slammed him like the kid was an adult,” said JimRusti. “The cop had his arm pinned behind him.”

Rodriguez told a different story.

“I put my arm on his shoulder,” Rodriguez said. He said the boy told him not to touch him and pushed the officer’s hand away. “So I grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him and we start walking towards my car … and that’s when, as I turned around, I saw his father coming towards me.”

Rodriguez called for backup and told the boy to sit on the ground. Several officers arrived, then left after they heard what happened, Smith said.

Mitzi Clark, Smith’s neighbor, described the boy as a polite child who listens to his father.

Councilman Bryan Caletka worried about the long-term impact, saying, “The kid’s not going to like cops now.”

Smith’s son said he’s not afraid of all police officers, just some. During the mediation, the officer apologized to Smith and his son, Fry said.

“He told them, ‘I’m sorry if you feel this way… I was looking to look out for your son,'” Fry said.

But in Smith’s eyes, Rodriguez never gave a true apology.

“He said he was sorry I took it that way. He never apologized,” Smith said. “He knew he was wrong. You don’t do that to a kid.”

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/community/news/davie/sfl-flbcopandkid0330sbmar30,0,6627517.story

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