MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Christopher Rutledge said he knew his rights the day he encountered Lake County paramedics and Mount Dora police. He had been parked in a shopping center, he said, waiting for his wife to pick him up.
Paramedics said when they were called to the area, they found him asleep behind the wheel, with the car still running. They told him they wanted to get his vitals and perform other medical evaluations.
“I almost felt like I was being kidnapped because I was like, ‘I’m good,’” Rutledge told Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones.
9 Investigates first obtained the body camera video of the incident that happened seven months ago after a concerned viewer reached out to us, questioning why the department never investigated the incident.
Body camera video shows paramedics on the scene of a welfare check. Paramedics stated that he became agitated and so they called police for backup.
The paramedics and officers suspected he was intoxicated, but Rutledge repeatedly refused a voluntary field sobriety test and told paramedics he didn’t need medical attention.
In the video, the Mount Dora officers on the scene can be heard discussing what they should arrest him for, one of them asking the other if he was going to do the DUI paperwork. Both seemed annoyed at the idea, and after they heard Rutledge tell one of the paramedics he would “(expletive) them up” the officers decide the easier thing to do would be to arrest him for threats on a public servant, noting that it would keep them from having to do “five hours of paperwork” for the suspicion of DUI.
Rutledge hadn’t seen this body camera video until Jones posted the story on her Facebook page earlier this week.
“Whenever I saw (your) news story and saw the body cam, I was really surprised because I got to see actually how they saw it, and saw that it was just as serious as I thought, that they did, he grabbed me and assaulted me,” Rutledge said.
When Jones reached out to Mount Dora Police Chief Brett Meade, he said he would launch a review of the incident after we started asking questions.
“We’ll look at if there was an issue as far as the way the arrest was made, we’ll address it. If there are issues, gaps in our training, we’ll address that,” Meade said.
Rutledge said he didn’t realize Mount Dora police never investigated the officer. He told us he went to the department sometime after the incident with plans to file a complaint, but left without doing so because he felt assured that the issue would be investigated.
“I surely thought they were going to investigate him or find out really what had happened. And I was kind of curious myself to watch the body camera, to see how it was interpreted by the other officers, to see what would be justified of him doing that. I didn’t know if something happened that I didn’t remember, because I kind of lost (my) train of thought there for a minute when I hit the car, temporarily blacked out,” Rutledge said.
Meade said he wasn’t aware of the incident until recently.
“If there’s a use of force, and there’s an injury, a form will be completed that’s reviewed through the chain of command and that will come to me. In this case, for whatever reason, that form was not completed and that will be part of our review process,” Meade said.
He said the supervisor may have viewed the incident as normal police work while conducting an arrest.
Rutledge said while he had pain and some noticeable injuries the next day, his biggest fear was the damage to his body, because he has existing nerve damage in his upper body.
The officer wrote in his report that the injuries were a result of him trying to redirect Rutledge because of his size.
“He decided to say he was redirecting me because of my weight. I’m a small guy, I’m 155 pounds. I don’t know if retraining can fix guys like that. Sometimes I think that is embedded in your ego. I just don’t think this officer has it,” he said.
Though the chief spoke with us previously, when we reached out to them after speaking with Rutledge, a spokesperson said they’ve been advised not to make further comments.
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