Seminole County deputy charged with punching handcuffed suspect, sheriff says

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — A former Seminole County sheriff’s deputy was charged with misdemeanor battery Tuesday after investigators found video of him punching a handcuffed suspect, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Seminole County Sheriff Donald F. Eslinger announced the charge against former Deputy Michael O’Connor during a press conference Tuesday.

The incident happened on Jan. 12 and involved a man accused of attacking his mother.

The man, Jonathan Lynch, 25, of Winter Springs, had been arrested after a different deputy responded to a domestic violence report and found him hiding under a backyard Jacuzzi, an arrest report said.

Lynch was being combative, violent and was yelling obscenities while handcuffed in the deputy’s cruiser, the report said.

O’Connor arrived at the scene as backup a short while later and was watching Lynch while the arresting deputy was away from the cruiser, according to an administrative investigation.

Lynch continued to yell profanities and repeatedly kicked the door of the cruiser from the inside while asking for a drink of water, video footage from the scene showed.

The administrative investigation reported O’Connor told Lynch repeatedly to stop kicking the cruiser’s door and said he would get him a drink of water if he calmed down.

Lynch continued to kick the door and started demanding water, according to the investigation report.

“Get me water, mother f-----,” Lynch is quoted as saying to O’Connor before the deputy reached into the cruiser and grabbed the man by the shirt.

“Chill the f--- out,” O’Connor can be heard saying on video footage. “I’m going to f------ kill you right now, you understand?”

“Where’s the water? I want the water,” Lynch responded.

At that point, O’Connor shoved Lynch by the face, moved into the cruiser and punched the man in the face, the administrative investigation said.

Lynch later told Sheriff’s Office employees he’d been punched, but incorrectly identified the arresting deputy as the perpetrator, the investigation said.

When the Sheriff’s Office received the allegations on March 18, an investigation was immediately initiated, Eslinger said Tuesday.

O’Connor was placed on paid administrative suspension at the start of the investigation and resigned from the Sheriff’s Office on March 24.

He had been employed with the Sheriff’s Office Seminole Neighborhood Policing Division since October of 2013.

It was not the first time O’Connor had been investigated by the Sheriff’s Office.

On Aug. 20, 2015, he was placed on unpaid suspension for 172 hours on violations of conduct toward the public, in-car video/audio recording and domestic violence documentation.

Eslinger decried the alleged actions that led to the charge against O’Connor.

“We have a strong and long-standing relationship with the community we serve, and my commitment is to always be transparent with, and accountable to, our residents,” he said. “O’Connor’s actions were not just a violation of policy and law, they were also contrary to our agency’s core values.

“His behavior was completely inappropriate and totally inconsistent with what is expected of a deputy sheriff at our agency.”

The results of the criminal and administrative investigations will be forwarded to the state’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to determine if any action should be taken against O’Connor’s law enforcement certification, Eslinger said.