St. Pete Man Accuses Deputies of Excessive Force (w/video)
(BAY NEWS 9)
**Links below with video story as well as the unedited dash cam video**
A 24-year-old St. Petersburg man who says deputies used excessive force on him during a traffic stop is speaking about the incident for the first time.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said James Hoover was resisting arrest and not obeying deputies’ commands during a traffic stop in July.
The traffic stop was caught on dash cam video. Part of the incident happened off-camera, but Hoover can be heard getting Tasered.
“I think the first Taser was immediately after hitting the ground and that’s why I was incoherent from that point and don’t remember the second one,” Hoover said. “I think they used very unnecessary and excessive force.”
Hoover’s attorney, Frank McDermott, agrees.
“The police report says it appears as though he was trying to run and that’s why he had to be taken to the ground and Tasered,” McDermott said. “The video shows something quite to the contrary. And it shows what I believe to be an unnecessary use of excessive force.”
But the sheriff’s office said the traffic stop was done by the book.
“Based on our review of the video, the subject was issued verbal commands several times and he was non-compliant and the deputy took the action he deemed necessary as a result,” said Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Cecilia Barreda.
The traffic stop started when deputies say Hoover went speeding through a Publix parking lot, forcing customers to jump out of his way.
Deputies say Hoover then turned off his lights and tried to get away.
“I could’ve bumped them with my knee, I don’t believe I turned them off intentionally,” he said.
But Hoover said he didn’t know the unmarked cars were deputies and pulled over as soon as they turned on their lights.
“I knew I was being followed,” he said, “but not by a cop because they were all unmarked cars.”
McDermott said the video proves his client is innocent of fleeing and eluding.
“Swearing under oath that lights and sirens were on and that he was refusing to pull over. What the video shows is quite the contrary,” he said. “It shows that once the overhead lights went on, the red and blues they call them, once those went on he pulled over. And he was already pulled over when the siren came on.”
Hoover faces a fleeing and eluding charge along with reckless driving and resisting without violence.
He has been arrested eight times since 2005 but McDermott said his client’s past history had nothing to do with what happened.
“There’s no indication that these law enforcement officers knew Mr. Hoover from before,” he said. “Whoever was in that car was getting taken to the ground and Tased. It’s clear they didn’t take the time to find out what his rap sheet was before taking him to the ground.”
In this case, deputies also said Hoover made a vulgar gesture as he drove by them in the parking lot.
McDermott believes that’s the real reason deputies used force.
“I think the officers were upset,” McDermott said, “because they got flipped off or they thought they got flipped off.”
Hoover’s pre-trial is scheduled for next month.
The Sheriff’s Office said Hoover has not filed a complaint with internal affairs. McDermott said he advised his client to wait until the criminal case is over before filing a use of force complaint against the deputies.