MOUNT DORA, Fla. — A man who was Tased by a Mount Dora Police Sergeant is only talking to Eyewitness News.
John Stevens will likely die in prison if he’s convicted for any of the long list of felony charges he faces, including aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude, leaving the scene of a crash and driving while license canceled suspended or revoked.
He’s been sitting in the Lake County Jail since he was released from the hospital last September after two weeks. He was treated for serious injuries that forced him to be flown to Orlando Regional Medical Center in downtown Orlando.
Stevens was ready and waiting when Investigative Reporter Daralene Jones arrived in the visitor’s area at the Lake County Jail. “I prayed and prayed, and the Lord blessed me with you Ms. Jones, I guess, because you’re the one that researched and found the incident because they have me facing 45 years in prison,” Stevens told Jones. Stevens showed us where he has a scar from his broken femur and pointed out the area where he says he now has a rod in his back.
In September 2021, a Mount Dora police sergeant pulled him over, because he said Stevens, was driving recklessly. He wrote in the affidavit of probable cause that he spotted Stevens cutting in front of several vehicles on Highway 441, near Donnelly Street. Once he reached a red light, he activated his emergency lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop.
Stevens, at this point, was in the center lane of traffic, sandwiched between two other vehicles on the busy highway.
In the body camera video, we never hear the Sergeant tell Stevens why he’s being pulled over, he approaches the car and immediately asks for his license and registration. Stevens explains that he’s having car trouble. His car is visibly shaking in the video. He further explains he can’t put his car in park, as the Sergeant asks. The Sergeant then goes to open his car door, and the incident escalated from there, as he tries to pull Stevens from the vehicle who refuses to comply. “He shot me with the taser twice and the last thing I remember thinking is that he’s going to shoot me, so I had to get away from him,” Stevens told Jones.
Stevens is charged with a long list of felonies, in part, because the officer said Steven’s backed into his patrol car, and Stevens’ car door hit him as he took off. “The suspect put his vehicle in reverse while I was standing next to the vehicle with the driver’s door open. The vehicle accelerated while in reverse striking me with the driver’s door open,” the officer wrote in his report.
“I’m not going to say it didn’t happen. But I do know this, at the time the officer approached my car he had no probable cause to even talk to me,” Stevens said during the interview.
The Sergeant’s Lieutenant, the former chief and interim chief - all signed off on the incident, though they agreed it was against department policy to tase someone sitting behind the wheel of a running vehicle.
We went to City Hall today, to ask the City Manager about his plans to have an outside against investigate this and other incidents 9-investigates has exposed.
The officer’s Lieutenant wrote in this report that “while deploying a taser on someone in physical control of a moving vehicle is normally against Mount Dora police department policy, I do believe that there were exigent circumstances involved in this case.” He signed off on it, along with Chief Brett Meade, who resigned over disagreements with the City Manager about bringing in a third-party investigator to review two other incidents 9 Investigates has exposed, and now this one.
And the deputy Chief, Mike Gibson, who is now serving as interim chief, also signed off on the report. We went to City Hall, to ask the City Manager about his plans to have an outside agency to investigate this and other incidents 9-investigates has exposed, but a spokesperson told us they would provide a statement, instead.
The statement by City Manager Patrick Comiskey reads: The City of Mount Dora is actively seeking external assistance in a third-party review of cases that were recently brought to my attention. We entered into an agreement with a third-party organization; however, the organization reconsidered and declined to move forward. We have not wavered from our search. City Staff and I are working diligently to find a third party to review these cases. We will provide updates as we move through this process.”
“I think that’s deplorable, they have an obligation to their citizens to investigate everything,” Stevens said.
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