DeLAND, Fla. – Two DeLand police officers have been fired after an investigation found that they lied in official documents about a man resisting arrest outside a local bar on Jan. 20.
The findings were released Wednesday, detailing the allegations against Officer Leslie Goins and Officer Austin LaFleur, both of whom had been hired by the department earlier this year.
Officials say LaFleur was the first to respond to The Boulevard Bar to investigate a complaint about an unruly patron. Bar employees said the man had not broken any laws but they wanted him to be trespassed because he got into an argument with a bartender.
LaFleur placed the man in handcuffs, telling him that he was only being detained, not arrested. At about that same time, Goins arrived on the scene.
While LaFleur was getting more information from bar employees, Goins conducted a search of the man and found two baggies of suspected cocaine in his pocket.
The problem, according to documents, was that the man never should have been searched because he was not under arrest at that time.
After the drugs were found, the officers told the man that he'd be arrested on charges of trespassing and narcotics possession. However, when they filed their reports on the incident, they included a charge for resisting arrest.
Although LaFleur wrote in the arrest affidavit that the man was intoxicated, belligerent, argumentative, refusing to follow commands and physically resisting, the body camera footage showed no such thing, according to the report.
Goins also said that he witnessed the man resisting arrest, which he used as a reason to conduct the search that yielded cocaine. Officials said that based on the dark, rainy conditions and distance between himself and LaFleur and the man, it would have been impossible for Goins to see the man tugging or resisting in any way.
When questioned about the discrepencies between the reports and the body camera footage, both men offered several explanations.
LaFleur said that although the footage proved that the man was not violent or belligerent during the arrest, everything "blended together" when he was writing the report because the man was screaming and threatening him from the holding cell.
"I believe what happened was when I was trying to write the affidavit, I had all of this going on and I was by myself in the holding cell. I am not trying to make an excuse. It was wrong, I see that and I wish to learn from this and become a better officer. I was trying to remember what happened and that was going on," LaFleur told investigators, according to the report.
He also said the man was bigger than him and could potentially still start a fight even while in handcuffs, so in order to keep the man from getting upset, he said that he was only being detained and not under arrest.
Audio from LaFleur's body camera proved that he told the man the he was only detained, confirmed with employees that the man hadn't broken laws and told Goins after the search that the man was only going to be trespassed, to which Goins replied: "He's going to jail anyways. I found narcotics in his front pocket."
Goins later told investigators that it was "a poor choice of words." Still, he doubled down on his claim that he saw the man resisting LaFleur, despite how far away he was and the fact that no altercation was captured on video.
“I’m a precision marksman from the Department of Corrections. I can shoot out over 700 yards,” Goins said, touting his impeccable eyesight.
Goins said he thought the man was under arrest while he was conducted the search even though he could be heard in video footage telling the man he was only being detained. Like LaFleur, he said that was his way of trying to keep the man calm but then couldn't explain why he immediately told the man he was under arrest once the cocaine was found.
Investigators concluded that the resisting arrest charge was falsified in order to justify the search.
"Based on the facts, it did not appear that there was any intention on the part of LaFleur to arrest and charge [the man] with resisting an officer without violence prior to discovering that Goins had searched [the man] and found suspected narcotics," the report read.
They also believe that the officers lied under oath when they were questioned as part of the internal affairs investigation.
Both men have been fired as a result of the investigation.
The state attorney's office declined to pursue any charges against the man.
Click here to read the internal affairs report in its entirety.