St. Johns County, FL — In January, three St. Johns County deputies were placed on administrative leave after cell phone video surfaced of them savagely beating Christopher Butler. Predictably, police were quick to determine Butler was high on PCP but his lawyer says he was suffering from a diabetic event and was not able to follow police officer commands. Now, after video of the incident garners much deserved attention, one of the cops involved has been fired and charged.
According to News4Jax, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar in March filed a criminal charge of aggravated battery against Anthony DeLeo for his use of force against Christopher Butler. DeLeo was fired from the Sheriff’s Office. The charges were sent to the State Attorney’s Office for review, and DeLeo surrendered to authorities Wednesday.
“Based on the actions of (DeLeo), the gratuitous amount of force applied and the extent of injuries sustained by the victim; probable cause was established for the charge of aggravated battery,” the warrant affidavit stated.
The victim’s mother, Teri Morgenstern told First Coast News that she is happy her son’s abuser has been charged. However, she said she is not done fighting for justice and wants to make sure this violent maniac doesn’t become a gypsy cop and get hired in a neighboring county.
“I’m grateful, I’m happy,” Morgenstern said. “This is one step closer to showing police brutality exists in every state in every county. It doesn’t matter your race, it happens. And we need to get this out there so it doesn’t happen to someone else’s kid. I don’t want him to leave this county and go to Duval and become an officer there tomorrow because they can if we don’t go get his certification. I want his certification gone. I don’t want it to be your child or your child or another one of my children to be beaten—savagely beaten, like he beat Christopher.”
“They beat him like he was nothing. Like he wasn’t a human being,” she said.
The incident began 12/29 with Butler being observed driving 15 mph on I-95, the interstate with minimum speeds set at 55mph. A Florida Highway Patrolman (FHP) made the stop but requested backup after he was unable to get Butler to exit the vehicle. A passerby then witnessed the beating and stopped to record. That Good Samaritan later passed his cell phone videos on to Ms. Morgenstern, Butler’s mother, who contacted the media.
Butler’s mother noted:
They kneed Christopher in the face and punched him in the face inside the car…And our video shows once they had him on the ground they started kicking him in the face. They beat him so many times with the baton. They kept punching and my kid ended up at the hospital in critical care.
Indeed, as First Coast News points out, video shows Deleo hitting Butler 19 times with his baton and kicked him in the head and face for the next three minutes and 44 seconds, the warrant says.
While he was getting beaten, or rather tortured, Butler was naked, unarmed, entirely passive, and presented absolutely no threat.
Butler’s lawyer claims the beating was the “worst he’s ever seen” and says it doesn’t matter whether or not his client was on drugs or not, no one deserves to be treated inhumanely. John Phillips, the family’s attorney, said his client did not deserve to be treated that way:
It’s just so abusive and it just goes on for so long…They just kicked him and used a baton and tased him over and over…He was not high on PCP and any statement to that effect is going to result in defamation…He was having, as we understand it, a diabetic or blood sugar event throughout the course of this. Regardless, even if he was hopped up on whatever, you can’t just beat somebody because they’re high on drugs.
But cops do just that. They often mistake health problems with drug use and then justify their beatings by claiming the suspects were “not following lawful orders.” As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, federal use of force guidelines permit officers to escalate their uses of force for non-compliance. Such use of force can include, closed fist strikes such as Butler received while appearing to be seated on asphalt, hardly a threat to anyone.
If the police were not successful in getting Butler out of the vehicle they would have been justified with sending a K9 through the window, as we’ve seen before. There’s no limit to the extent law enforcement will go to subdue a suspect, including tasering a suspect to death, beating someone to death, choking someone to death, and/or running a suspect over with a moving vehicle.