Sanford officer cleared of wrongdoing in takedown arrest at The Barn

Chief says officer acted within department policy


SANFORD, Fla. – A Sanford officer who was seen on video taking down a handcuffed man during an incident at a popular bar in July has been cleared of wrongdoing, officials said.

Officer Adam Johnson was one of several officers at The Barn on July 9 around 2 a.m. Officials said an officer working extra duty at the bar called for backup after getting in a physical altercation with two patrons.

Patron Morrell Byrd was standing on top of a table punching an air conditioning unit and replied with expletives when an officer asked him to get down, according to the report.

The officer got Byrd off the table and was on the floor struggling to handcuff him when Johnson and another officer arrived to assist. Johnson wrote in his report that he and another officer pushed patrons out of the way to prevent them from grabbing at the officer who was attempting to handcuff Byrd. He described the crowd as "large and hostile."

Video shows Johnson was helping to escort Byrd, who was handcuffed, out of the club when Johnson performed a takedown maneuver, slamming Byrd to the floor.

Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith said the department immediately launched an investigation when officials became aware of video circulating on social media. As part of that investigation, authorities reviewed that video as well as body camera videos from officers who were at the scene.

"Video evidence shows that even while handcuffed, Byrd was able to assault Johnson by turning and thrusting his body into that of Johnson’s. Video evidence shows that Johnson immediately reacted to Byrd’s behavior by performing a takedown maneuver against him. This takedown maneuver was captured by an unidentified patron who took a cellphone video of the incident," Smith said.

Smith said that Johnson's actions were appropriate given Byrd's resistance. Johnson testified that Byrd elbowed him in the chest hard enough to cause him to lose his grip and that's when he performed a hip-roll maneuver to take him to the floor, according to the report.

Johnson also denied that he acted out of anger since Byrd was calling him names and said that he used what he believed was the "safest maneuver possible to gain compliance."

The internal affairs investigation involving Johnson has been closed without any disciplinary action. He had been placed on paid administrative leave in July.

Byrd was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer in connection with the incident. The status of that case is unknown.

About the Author: