Orange County corrections officer charged, resigns amid use of force investigation

Former officer accused of punching handcuffed inmate

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County corrections officer was charged with battery and resigned after he punched a handcuffed inmate in the face several times out of retaliation for the inmate hitting the officer's girlfriend, who is also a corrections officer at the jail, according to the internal affairs report.

According to the internal affairs investigation, former Officer William Rodriguez Rivera punched the inmate, Neal Melbourne, on Dec. 19, 2018, after he overheard that the inmate had struck another officer, C. Carrasquillo Rivera, in the stomach.

Rivera wrote in his statement that when he heard that information that's when "unfortunately at that time, I had a lapse in judgement and struck inmate Melbourne several times in the facial area."

Several other officers witnessed the incident, including a supervisor who reported it to internal affairs.

One officer told investigators that Rivera punched Melbourne out of retaliation for hitting a female correctional officer whom Rivera was dating, according to the report.

An officer who responded to a call for "officer needs assistance" told investigators they saw Rivera "deliver close fist strikes to inmate Melbourne while he was still handcuffed." That officer stepped in between Rivera and the inmate.

The inmate told officers the incident happened as he was leaving the medical wing where he was being treated after fighting correctional officers. According to the inmate, he said he was being escorted down a hallway when he was pushed into a dark room by an unknown correctional officer and struck in the back of his head four or five times.

The inmate suffered a large cut to his forehead and his eyes were bruised and swollen, according to the report. He was treated at Orlando Regional Medical Center and then transferred to the Osceola County Corrections until Dec. 21 before being brought back to the Orange County jail.

On Dec. 20,  the internal affairs unit received a request for an investigation into Rivera's actions.

The state attorney's office charged Rivera with battery on Feb. 7 and he resigned from the Orange County Corrections Department April 19.

The internal affairs investigation completed June 20 found that Rivera's use of force was not justified and the incident occurred without provocation. Investigators wrote in their findings that Rivera's conduct was unbecoming the high ethical standards criminal justice employees are required to uphold.