FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — Two Florida police officers are facing charges after video showed one of them slapping and then repeatedly punching an intoxicated man who was yelling at them at a hospital.
Fort Pierce police officer Albert Eckrode, 32, resigned Friday and was charged with felony battery and official misconduct and a misdemeanor count of filing a false police report, Chief Diane Hobley-Burney told reporters Monday according to the TCPalm website. Officer Monica Frederic, 27, is charged with misdemeanor filing a false police report and is suspended without pay.
“This was not use of force — it was a criminal act,” Hobley-Burney said.
Eckrode is white and the man who was struck appears to be white.
A soundless three-minute video from the hospital's security system from Feb. 20 shows a 38-year-old man sitting in recliner in a hospital's mental health unit with his feet up. The man, whose name was not released, had been picked up for public intoxication and brought to the hospital. He is gesturing and appears to be yelling at Frederic, who is seated about 10 feet (3 meters) away, and another officer when Eckrode enters.
Eckrode listens to the man for a few seconds, calmly puts the water bottle he is carrying down and then confronts the man, using his foot to slam down the recliner's foot rest.
Towering over the still seated man, Eckrode leans into him and uses his knee to push the chair backward twice. He then slaps the man's cheek with his right hand. They continue jawing at each other and Eckrode slaps him with his left hand. The man appears to start yelling back at Eckrode and taps his own cheek, as if to challenge Eckrode, who then taps his own ear in response.
He then slaps the man a third time hard and pushes him in the chest as they continue jawing at each other. The man turns his cheek toward Eckrode, as if
daring the officer to hit him. Eckrode punches him four times and the man briefly slumps over. Eckrode then cleans his hands.
The man never touched Eckrode. Neither Frederic, the third officer or another uniformed man who entered during the confrontation ever moved to stop Eckrode.
On their reports, Eckrode and Frederic said the man had had been yelling racial slurs at Frederic, who is black.
But Chief Hobley-Burney, who is black, disputed that, saying the altercation “was not racial at all.” She called Eckrode “a very good officer” who perhaps let his emotions get the best of him.
“We will not allow anyone who wears the badge of this department to do such actions to any citizen," she said. Still, she said, “sometimes we are human too. And I think what was happening with (Eckrode) is it’s possible that what was being said, he wanted (the man) to stop, and he did not."
No attorney for Eckrode is listed on court records. He is free on $4,500 bond.
Frederic's attorney Marty White told TCPalm that his client will defend herself in court and "is a good young lady, a good officer.” She is free on $1,000 bond.
The third officer who was in the room did not falsify a report and remains on duty, Hobley-Burney said.
Fort Pierce is on the Atlantic Coast, north of Palm Beach.