• Teen coerced by Longwood cop into admitting to felony he didn't commit

    By: Karla Ray , James Tutten

    Updated:

    LONGWOOD, Fla. - A Longwood police officer was allowed to keep his job, even after holding a teenager for nearly an hour and coercing the boy to admit to a felony he didn't actually commit.

    An investigation found that the officer falsely told the teen he could go to juvenile detention for fleeing and eluding, even though the cop admitted later he didn't have enough evidence to arrest.

    Investigative reporter Karla Ray spoke to the teen's mother, who questions whether her son was profiled.


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    Longwood Officer Tyson Coppola's face is blurred in dash camera video released to 9 Investigates, but it's a face the teen in the driver's seat of the March traffic stop will never forget.

    The teen was on his way to basketball practice at a local church.

    "To this day, it's sticking with my son, and it's been months," Quanda Radford said.

    9 Investigates reached out to Radford after reading Coppola "applied pressure and false information to her that her son would be arrested for felony fleeing and eluding," unless he provided a confession for the crime he didn't commit.

    Off-camera, Coppola tried to explain to Radford the route he believed her son took to elude him. 

    "He runs the stop sign again from East Street on to 434.  He just didn't anticipate that I would be over here," Coppola said.

    Investigators determined the silver Chevrolet Malibu that Radford's son was driving was not the car Coppola saw run a stop sign. It wasn't even the same make or model.

    "You trust the police to be telling you the truth, and that's not what happened in this incident," Radford said.

    The internal affairs investigation shows the officer told the teen, "I could actually slap a felony on you, take you down to juvenile assessment, let you spend four hours down there until they could come pick you up, and pay $250 to get you out."

    "It was intimidating, it was scary, because we didn't know all the facts at that time," Radford said.  "To make our son stand in front of this officer we're supposed to trust, and admit to something, because we were afraid he was going to be put in handcuffs."

    When Coppola was asked why he pressured Radford to have her son confess to a felony for which he ultimately admitted he did not have enough evidence to arrest, Coppola said he wanted to provide a "teachable moment" for the teen.

    "His exact words were, ‘He has to be a man and stand in front of me and admit that he was the one fleeing and eluding.'  So, no, that wasn't a teachable moment," Radford said.  "That was an abuse of power."

    Longwood Police Chief David Dowda declined an interview request from 9 Investigates, saying the details in the investigation and discipline letter speak for themselves.  

    Officer Coppola was given 3 12-hour shift suspensions and had to undergo some additional training.

    Chief Dowda said he did not believe the officer had malicious intent during the stop.

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