Apopka police deputy chief retired amid abuse of power investigation, documents show

Video: Apopka police deputy chief retired amid abuse of power investigation, documents show

APOPKA, Fla. — City records show when the Apopka deputy police chief opted to retire last month, he was being investigated for abuse of power for allegedly trying to influence the outcome of another officer’s internal investigation.

Apopka city attorney Joe Byrd believes deputy chief Randy Fernandez “inappropriately attempted to influence” an investigation into use of force by K-9 officer Ken Friedline, documents show.

That investigation centered on how the officer and a burglary suspect made it onto the other side of a fence while the suspect was in handcuffs. That’s something body camera video does not clearly show.

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In July 2018, the now-convicted car burglar, Dalton Mosley, was hiding from Apopka police in the backyard of a home off White Tail Loop.  Somehow, he and Friedline forced their way through a space in a wooden fence, and within seconds, Mosley was face-down on the ground.

“I think he’s knocked out, call (the fire department),” Friedline is heard saying in the body camera video.

Friedline has been under scrutiny for months for the arrest.

Mosley is Apopka police Chief Michael McKinley’s nephew, which is why Fernandez was in charge of reviewing the internal affairs investigation into the use of force.

Documents released Monday show that after a captain called for the use of force to be reviewed by internal affairs, Fernandez took a special interest in pushing the investigation forward, calling for Friedline to be relieved of duty and questioning whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement should be called in to investigate.

A memo from February shows Byrd declared Fernandez had become a subject of an investigation for allegedly trying to sway the outcome and adding policy violations to the completed use of force report.

Two months later, Byrd sent another memo detailing why misconduct allegations against Fernandez would be tough to prove.

“It is my opinion that the PD and the citizens are best served by bringing this investigation to a close as soon as possible,” Byrd wrote in the memo.

That led the city to ultimately settle with Fernandez, who will retire in September after collecting 20 weeks of severance pay.

Apopka hired an outside use of force expert to review the issue at hand. The expert found that Friedline’s takedown was reasonable.

Friedline and two other officers on scene that night were found in violation of other policies in how the suspect was treated and how they reported the incident to the chain of command.

The officers are awaiting discipline notifications for those violations.