DeLand police officer fired after video shows 'unreasonable' arrest

Video shows Officer Joey Mulero pushing man

DeLAND, Fla. – A DeLand police officer was fired Monday after an internal investigation determined he used "excessive and unreasonable" actions while arresting a man last year.

DeLand police Officer Joey Mulero was fired after body camera video of the incident was reviewed by authorities.

Officials said Mulero was responding to a call about a man who apparently was yelling at cars. 

The man denied the accusations, saying he was talking to another man about "spiritual things." Mulero dismissed the other man from the scene after he said he was just trying to help the man, who seemed distraught, according to authorities.

In the video, Mulero is seen pushing the man, who Mulero said got into his "personal space." After some back and forth between the two, the man asks Mulero if he's on a "power trip," the video shows.

Mulero later says he hates people invading his space, and the man says he hates Nazis, prompting Mulero to handcuff and detain the man, the video shows.

 Attorneys representing the man notified the city of DeLand in May about the confrontation, but it was dismissed because the video provided at the time only showed the arrest and not what let to it, according to officials.

In July, a second notice was filed with the full body camera video, officials said.

The information was forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which determined, "While the actions of Officer Mulero were troubling and inappropriate, said conduct did not constitute a crime."

The state attorney's office declined to prosecute the case, which was referred back to the DeLand Police Department.

An internal review found Mulero's actions were unacceptable, and he was fired.

The charge of resisting arrest without violence against the man was dropped. 

DeLand Police Chief  Jason Umberger released a statement about the incident Monday morning.

“On or about July 26, 2018, as the result of litigation filed against our city, the (DeLand) Police Department became aware of the conduct of one of our officers, identified as Officer Johan Mulero. In the lawsuit, it was alleged that Mulero had falsely detained (a man) during a September 14, 2017, arrest. It wasn’t until July 26, 2018 that DeLand PD learned that a full length video existed of this incident.

"Here is a brief timeline of events:
"On May 24, 2018, the city received a notice of intent to litigate. The notice was filed by the Law Offices of Scott M. Miller, P.A. against the Police Department and alleged Officer Johan Mulero caused personal injuries and related damages to (his client) as a result of him falsely detaining (his client). In the fall of 2017, the Police Department had body worn camera technology that did not function properly and as a result we were unaware that a full video existed of the incident. We have since changed companies and the way we manage body worn camera video and its storage.

"On or about July 26, 2018 the city received a second notice and a copy of a full length video of the incident. Upon reviewing this video, Internal Affairs brought the video to me and I viewed it. Mulero was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay and a formal internal affairs investigation was ordered. I directed Internal Affairs to provide a copy of the video and subsequent police reports to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to determine whether or not a criminal investigation or criminal charges were warranted. FDLE and the Office of the State Attorney, 7th Judicial District, reviewed the video and police reports and determined that no further criminal investigation was warranted nor were any criminal charges warranted against Officer Mulero. They referred the matter back to the DeLand Police Department for an administrative internal investigation stating in their report to our Police Department that the conduct was “troubling and inappropriate."

"The subsequent internal affairs investigation found that Mulero engaged in conduct unbecoming of a police officer, made an unlawful arrest for the crime of Resisting Arrest without Violence section 843.02 Florida Statutes and therefore used unnecessary and/or excessive force to affect an arrest that lacked any probable cause and therefore any legal basis. Further, his conduct violated our Departmental code of conduct, our mission statement and our core values. His conduct was unprofessional and is not in keeping with the standard of conduct expected from members of the DeLand Police Department. In addition, he failed to apply the numerous trainings he has received in the areas of de-escalation techniques and verbal judo thereby escalating a situation which otherwise may have been resolved without a physical confrontation.

"The relevant facts of this case are that the Police Department did not become aware of the conduct of our officer until 10 months after the incident occurred (video received 7-26-18) and then subsequently that the State Attorney’s Office had determined that the arrest of (the victim) lacked sufficient probable cause to affect a criminal arrest and that it had been dismissed from the court docket.   

"Police officers are called upon to serve our residents and we often encounter challenging scenarios and in the majority of incidents our officers display remarkable restraint, patience and valor as they respond to calls for service. However, there are times when our actions do not come anywhere near achieving the standards of excellence that we have set for our officers at the DeLand Police Department. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.   

"As a result of the sustained findings of misconduct on the part of Officer Johan Mulero, I recommended to the City Manager that Officer Mulero be terminated from employment as a police officer. The City Manager has upheld this recommendation.”

Mulero was previously disciplined in January for driving at more than 90 MPH to assist another officer during a traffic stop, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. He and another officer were both suspended for 40 hours without pay. Sgt. Grant Faustich was demoted to the rank of police officer for approving the pursuit.

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