How the arrest of a homeless man over a curfew violation led to a possible federal lawsuit

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A bicycle stop that started with a curfew violation at the start of the coronavirus pandemic turned into felony charges for a homeless man when Orange County deputies picked him up.

After the most serious charges against Roosevelt Davis were dropped, his attorney is now preparing to file a federal lawsuit claiming Davis’ rights were violated.

The state attorney did not pursue prosecution for the felony charges in Davis’ case, in part, because the prosecutor called what was caught on video “problematic”.

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Davis was in handcuffs when deputies tied his feet together and put him in the back of a squad car.

The encounter happened in late April, when two deputies spotted the 51-year-old homeless man out past curfew.

“If you’re homeless, how are you supposed to abide by a curfew? Impossible to do,” Davis’ attorney Chris Waggener said.

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It happened a month into a county order requiring nonessential workers to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Violations faced a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

A list shows that 42 people were arrested while the order was in place, and most of them also ended up with various felony charges during their arrest.

Davis’ added charges included battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence.

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According to video of the incident, however, Waggener said Davis’ behavior could be explained.

“In a lot of ways encapsulates what has been going on in the country in the last few years. It also explains his behavior when police approach him,” Waggener said.

Davis accepted a plea deal for providing a false name the night of his arrest and violating curfew.

The sheriff’s office found Davis was lawfully detained for criminal charges as well as the curfew violation, and that he repeatedly resisted arrest.

The prosecutor stated there were also issues with testimony from one of the deputies during a deposition. According to the department’s policy, the deputies also needed supervisor permission to arrest someone for a curfew violation.

Orange County deputies did not know it at the time they initially encountered Davis, but Channel 9 found out that he had an outstanding warrant for charges related to a 2019 burglary, including criminal mischief and petty theft.

He pleaded not guilty, but no trial date for those charges has been set.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.