Deputies accused of excessive force on student
Internal investigators for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office are investigating if officers followed guidelines while arresting 22-year-old Mateo Falconi.
Falconi, a Florida Gulf Coast University student, was arrested in October after leading Deputy Robert Lewis III on a five-mile chase that involved reaching speeds in excess of 110 mph.
According to the arrest report, Falconi deliberately accelerated his “race style” motorcycle to avoid police.
“Within seconds of my emergency lights being activated, the motorcycle accelerated hard around another motorist and it was clearly evident that he was attempting to flee,” Deputy Lewis said, according to the report.
Falconi then went on to reach 80 mph in a 45 mph zone.
Later, according to the report, Falconi headed eastbound in a westbound lane, traveling at approximately 50 mph.
Falconi eventually reached a dead end road and stopped the motorcycle. Falconi stepped off the vehicle “as if he might flee on foot.
The deputy then got out of the patrol car and drew his gun.
According to the report, Lewis then struck Mateo in the chest, pushing him to the ground. When Falconi didn’t comply with physical attempts to restrain him, Lewis drew his Taser and fired into Falconi’s back.
After being detained, deputies say Falconi tested positive for THC and 55.8 grams of marijuana were found in his backpack.
Falconi’s lawyer said her client plans to file a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office for excessive force.
A statement from the Sheriff’s Office said investigators will be reviewing Falconi’s actions and his resistance and if the officers followed proper procedures.
“Among the questions that will be resolved are whether Mr. Falconi was resisting being handcuffed at the time of the alleged excessive response to resistance and whether deputies on scene were following agency and state response to resistance guidelines while taking Mr. Falconi into custody,” a Sheriff’s Office statement said.
A dashboard camera from Lewis’ cruiser shows the officers yelling expletives at Falconi when attempting to arrest him.
In an interview with NBC-2, Falconi said the event traumatized him.
“That night has left me permanently scarred and I fear further physical retaliation now that these events are being made public,” Falconi told NBC-2.