A number of Venice Police officers are being investigated for their use of force while taking down a robbery suspect.
The incident occurred on Dec. 21, 2018, when officers received a call of a possible burglary at Motel 6 on the Bypass.
Police had received the description of two individuals from motel management, one of whom had entered a motel room through the window.
A patrol car dashcam video posted on YouTube by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, shows the incident.
As they arrive on scene, one of the officers can be heard on the dashcam recognizing 19-year-old Ethan Waters. He was standing next to a motel wall talking on his cell phone.
Two days prior, officers were involved in a physical altercation at the same motel.
As the officers approach Waters, officer David Creasy points to the wall, signaling Waters to turn around.
A housekeeper can be heard off camera identifying the young man as a robbery suspect.
Still on the phone, Waters begins to approach the officer.
From then on, Waters appears to panic and tenses up, yelling at the police that they don’t know what’s going on.
Waters doesn’t seem to know police are responding to a robbery.
He continues to protest, telling officers that he’s on the phone with his mother who is staying in the motel, and that he is an American.
In the arrest report, police say Waters was posturing and acting aggressively, not complying with officers commands to put his hands behind his back, and trying to evade arrest.
Waters is taken to the ground forcefully by officer Creasy. Another officer, Victor Montanez, threatens Waters with a taser, but Creasy warns that action off. Putting his tazer away, Montanez helps subdue the young man, who is still arguing with officers. A third officer comes in to assist, and Waters is finally handcuffed.
Waters, who is now bleeding from a scratch on his forehead, is lifted up and escorted to the patrol car as he continues to protest, all the while being told to calm down.
As soon as the suspect is standing against the patrol vehicle, two of the officers run around the corner of the motel in search of the second robbery suspect.
The second suspect, John Fegley, faces essentially the same treatment as they find him walking out from another part of the building. As police converge, he says “No, no, no,” tensing up and resisting, according to an incident report. He’s charged with resisting arrest and for possession of drugs.
No robberyIt turns out, there was no robbery.
Police learn from motel staff that Waters was staying in the room of a registered motel guest who advised staff he didn’t want to give Waters a key, and who told staff he would leave the window open for his friend to come in and out.
It appears the word never got to other motel staff, who called 911 upon seeing one of the men climb in through a motel window.
Now, Venice Police Chief Tom Mattmuller has initiated a “service inquiry,” an internal review which, if substantiated, could lead to a full blown Internal Affairs investigation of whether or not too much force was used in detaining Waters. Mattmuller spent Friday reviewing three hours of video from various sources.
“The Venice Police Department recognizes its responsibility to thoroughly investigate complaints of misconduct against its members,” said Chief Mattmuller. “We will follow the process in place that provides a diligent and systematic investigation of the incident.”
Waters is currently in Sarasota County jail for failing to complete conditions of his probation for a marijuana possession arrest made in January.