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Pike County deputy assaults restrained man, FBI asked to probe

Pike County deputy assaults restrained man, FBI asked to probe (PCSO)
Pike County deputy assaults restrained man, FBI asked to probe (PCSO)
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WAVERLY, Ohio - A Pike County Sheriff’s deputy has resigned and a supervisor has been demoted after a man in their custody was beaten while restrained in a holding area of the sheriff’s office, Local 12 News has learned.

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said he has asked the FBI to investigate the conduct of former Pike County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Mooney for potential federal criminal charges. The video shows a man who was taken into custody for a misdemeanor offense restrained in a chair and Mooney punching him in the face 11 times with his fists.

“It was disturbing to watch,” Junk said. “After reviewing it, reviewing the reports, I got a hold of the FBI. We made a copy of the case and the videos for them. I requested they review it for any possible federal criminal charges."

The incident happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 18 at the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. Thomas Friend, 27, was taken into custody for disorderly conduct on Nov. 16.

Local 12 obtained surveillance video of the incident through a public records request. The video shows Mooney move Friend, who was confined in a restraint chair, to the parking lot of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. The video shows Mooney using pepper spray on Friend. As the spray hit Friend’s face, he used his bare feet to try to move the chair backward. The chair tips, leaving Friend laying on the ground restrained.

Mooney used the pepper spray on Friend a second time. Minutes later, Mooney wheeled Friend inside the holding area and punched him in the face a total of 11 times on two occasions. The number of blows resulted in injuries to Friend’s face and a broken bone in Mooney’s hand.

At one point, a sheriff’s office supervisor, Sgt. William Stansberry, walks into the room and witnesses part of the incident. Stansberry did not intervene.

"Talking with him, I think he realizes he should have said something or done something,” said Interim Pike County Sheriff Jim Nelson.

Friend was later taken to an area hospital for treatment and then back to jail.

Nelson said a deputy who saw what happened alerted his superiors. Nelson found out about the incident that morning and placed Mooney and Stansberry on paid administrative leave as required by the union contract. Nelson said Mooney submitted his resignation as the administrative investigation began.

Nelson said Friend was acting out in the transport van that morning and spitting on other inmates. However, he said that did not justify Mooney’s behavior and he believes he should face criminal charges.

"Anybody’s that’s in law enforcement, it’s something you have to deal with. You have to have the right mindset,” Nelson said. "Anybody’s that’s in this line of work, you know you’re going to be treated like that at times. It’s just the way it is.”

Junk said Nelson asked him to review the internal investigation into the incident shortly after Thanksgiving. Stansberry was suspended for two weeks without pay and demoted from the rank of sergeant to corporal.

Junk said he has spoken with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office about launching a criminal investigation should the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s decline to file federal charges.

“This absolutely has to be criminally investigated by an outside agency. I am going to make sure that is absolutely done,” said Junk.

According to an incident report, Friend was taken into custody on Nov.16 after a woman called deputies to report he was getting into vehicles and honking horns. When a deputy found Friend, the report states Friend threw a debit card in his face and later bit the deputy. A man in the neighborhood told the deputy that Friend was his brother and had been acting strangely for a couple of days.

Nelson told Local 12 News that people who knew Friend told the deputy who responded to the scene that he had been using bath salts and methamphetamine.

The report outlines how Friend was ordered to the ground and pulled his pants down to expose his buttocks and made a vulgar comment. Friend cursed at the responding deputy and also bit his arm but did not break the skin.

Friend was taken to an area jail on Nov. 16, but deputies picked him up in the early morning hours of Nov. 18 to take him to court for an arraignment. That is when the incident at the sheriff’s office took place. At 5:55 a.m., a surveillance camera recorded a deputy spraying Friend in the face with pepper spray. The deputy wheels Friend, who is still restrained, into a holding area and punches him in the face several times. Friend had tried to kick the deputy after being pepper-sprayed.

“This is the first case of excessive force that I know of. I’m not sure if there’s been others or not,” said Nelson. "With all of the publicity that we get down here, I do feel it’s just another black eye on Pike County and that’s not how our department runs. I think it was just an isolated incident.”

Nelson became interim sheriff last August after now-suspended Sheriff Charlie Reader was indicted. Reader faces 16 felony and misdemeanor charges related to allegations that he used money seized in drug raids to fund his gambling addiction. Reader is also accused of crimes involving seized vehicles and taking loans from a sheriff’s vendor and Stansberry. Reader has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled for April 2020.

Junk said Mooney’s behavior was absolutely wrong and the residents of Pike County deserve better.

"If someone thinks this is OK, they don’t need to be working as a law enforcement officer,” Junk said.

Nelson also said he believes Friend should face criminal charges for the incident.

Todd Lindgren, a spokesperson with the FBI’s Cincinnati office, would not comment on the agency’s potential involvement in the case.

“As a matter of policy, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of a potential investigation,” Lindgren said.

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Mooney declined to comment when contacted by Local 12 News Monday.

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