Like most young people their age, Deidra Reid and Reginald Lane Jr. say they have been following closely the escalations between police officers and people of color across the country.
On social media, they see a common hashtag: #JusticeForMikeBrown, #JusticeForSandraBland, #JusticeForSamDubose, and so on, into what seems like an endless list that is updated daily with cases of people harmed or killed by alleged police brutality.
And last week, after a confrontation with three Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies that resulted in arrest and a hospital visit for Reid, 21, and Lane, 20, the two Valencia students also became a hashtag: #JusticeForDeidra.
On Wednesday, Reid, Lane and several other college students filed excessive-force complaints against OCSO, which has defended the deputies’ actions. The conflict on July 20 began at the Retreat at Orlando, an apartment complex near the University of Central Florida, where Reid and Lane were visiting their friend, a resident of the complex. Reid was trying to get into the clubhouse, but a 9-year-old boy who was inside would not open the door for them. When her friend opened the door, Reid talked to the boy for 17 seconds, telling him he was rude. According to security footage and the arrest report, she said to him: “Don’t you know you are supposed to respect your elders?”
The boy went to get his father, Orange County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Brett Parnell, who was in the gym. In a heated exchange, Parnell, who is also a courtesy officer for the complex, asked Reid if she was a resident. When Reid said she wasn’t, the off-duty deputy asked her to leave, the report says. Parnell says in his report that he then called another off-duty deputy, Richard Nye, who is also a courtesy officer at the complex. When Reid and friends tried to leave the complex, Parnell stopped them and an argument ensued.
The confrontation escalated with more officers arriving, and Reid was arrested on charges of resisting an officer with violence and trespassing. Lane was arrested for resisting an officer without violence. Police allege that Reid took a “fighting stance” which prompted Nye to grab her arms and put her on the ground. Reid says she did not take a fighting stance, but threw a cup she was holding to the floor.
“They attacked me, pushed me up against the fence and dropped me on the floor while sitting on my back,” Reid wrote in her complaint. “[They] twisted my shoulder out of place while I was already in handcuffs.” Lane says in his complaint that Deputy Kristine Helms kneed him in the groin during his arrest, and he was slammed into the car by Nye, who is shown in the video holding a “less lethal shotgun,” according to the report.
“I am traumatized and frightened of the events that occurred that afternoon,” wrote Lane in his complaint.
Videos of the incident recorded with cellphones went viral, and the hashtag #JusticeForDeidra was started on social media. After she was arrested, Reid was taken to the hospital for a dislocated shoulder. She was supposed to attend UCF in the fall, but after the incident, she says her life has been put on hold.
“At night, I can’t sleep. I’m on two different types of medication,” said Reid, her arm still in a sling, at a Wednesday news conference. “How can two people like that sleep at night with their families? ... Because I can’t sleep at night.”
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at an earlier conference Wednesday that the three deputies are still on duty while a criminal and internal investigation is underway. Demings added that the security footage shows Reid “bullying the child for not letting her into the complex.”
“Sgt. Parnell did what he was hired to do by the complex,” he said. “We’re happy to fully investigate the complaint, but ask that copies of all videos of the incident be turned over to investigators so they have a full picture of what happened. ... What most of you have been provided are small snippets.”
Reid’s attorney, Natalie Jackson, says her client and Lane have been demonized for asserting their rights. Jackson also represents Noel Carter, who complained that Orlando Police Department officers were excessive during his arrest when they kicked him, shocked him with a stun gun, hit him with a metal baton and pepper-sprayed him.
“She did not touch this little boy, she did not threaten this little boy,” Jackson says. “The key to this case is that Deputy [Parnell] had no reason to arrest Deidra Reid. As a father, he had a right to confront her. But he could not use his badge to abuse, torment and bully Deidra.”
Ston Jean-Baptiste, one of Reid’s friends who was at the news conference Wednesday supporting her, says he was shocked when he saw her on the news. “It became real,” he says. “I also think this is being ignored. People think it’s not that big of a situation, or it wasn’t that serious, but it is.”
The best course of action for off-duty officers who want to make an arrest is to call 911, says Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
“If the situation is serious enough to make an arrest, the wisest course is to call on-duty police,” he says. “If the [off-duty officer] is the complainant, it helps give some sense of impartiality. That’s not to say the off-duty officer doesn’t have a probable cause or force was improperly used, because he is still a police officer.”
Professor Kenneth Nunn, who specializes in race relations and the law at the University of Florida, watched both videos of the event, and writes that it’s hard to tell from the clips whether excessive force was used.
“The most likely incident of excessive force would be the lifting of the girl by the arms,” he writes. “That seems totally gratuitous and done simply to punish.” Nunn says that while there does not seem to be an overly egregious use of force, he questions why the incident occurred at all.
“A citizen is not required to obey the orders of an off-duty officer acting in his private capacity,” he writes. “The office may have violated the law, in fact, by making an arrest for which there is not probable cause for a violation of the law. If she in fact lived in the complex or was an invited guest, she was not trespassing.”