ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A former deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is facing multiple criminal charges following accusation that he slammed a woman to the ground while making an arrest, according to the state attorney’s office.
Records show charges of perjury in an official proceeding, perjury when not in an official proceeding and battery were filed Wednesday morning against former deputy Ayler Cruz.
“The State Attorney’s Office is grateful for the cooperation of Sheriff John Mina and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office regarding this matter. The commitment to victims of crime in the 9th Circuit by both of our agencies, no matter the identity of the accused, is paramount to successful community partnerships,” the state attorney’s office said in a statement.
Officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said the charges stem from a Jan. 26, 2020 battery incident. Cruz resigned in July 2020 while that incident was under an internal review, which found that he violated policies pertaining to conformance to laws and unbecoming conduct.
“No one is more outraged than I am when a deputy is charged with a crime,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said. “At the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, we are committed to working with our partners at the State Attorney’s Office to ensure that any alleged criminal behavior will be thoroughly investigated and we will hold employees that violate the law to account.”
Cruz and two other deputies, Junior Jorge and Joel Reyes and Cpl. Sergio Uribe responded to a call on Jan. 26, 2020 at 5660 Pine Chase Drive where a caller reported a man was “hitting” people, according to the investigative report.
When deputies arrived, body camera video shows, there was a brief conversation with people in the apartment and the man was not arrested. However, the man’s wife was arrested on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and domestic violence battery.
Records show the wife was the person who called for help and was the victim.
A professional standards section was contacted by the state attorney on Feb. 28, who expressed concern over Cruz’s reports associated with the case and the arrest of the woman.
The state attorney’s office said the body camera video did not match his reports. Based on the videos, a criminal investigation was initiated.
Orange County investigators with the professional standards section interviewed multiple witnesses and reviewed evidence.
The investigation ultimately found Cruz did not have probable cause to arrest the woman and her arrest was “merely the product of a verbal argument” with Cruz.
Investigators said Cruz committed battery when he “actually and intentionally touching the woman against her will and causing injury to her body.”
Cruz wrote in his arrest report that Chaney was “holding a carton juice box in her hands … and started to swing the juice box toward us” adding she threw it toward him, hitting him with juice. However, multiple witness statements conflicted with his report.
Another deputy who responded told investigators Cruz’s interaction and the way he secured the woman reflected poorly on the sheriff’s office.
None of the other deputies who responded saw the woman throw juice at Cruz or any of the liquid on his person, according to the report. Records show the juice carton was seen with the cap still on in body camera videos.
Another deputy’s report described Cruz tackling the victim to handcuff her, during which she suffered several bruises to her ankles and wrists.
A review of the body camera shows when the victim asked about her husband being placed in handcuffs, the woman came down from her apartment with a juice carton and asked what was happening.
Cruz responded by telling her she had “five seconds” to go back upstairs or she would be arrested and then he began counting down.
The victim was very clearly upset with the juice carton in her hand as she spoke, investigators who reviewed the video said.
“You touch me with that, I’m going to drag your (expletive) downstairs,” Cruz told the victim about the juice carton. In response, the victim put the lid on the juice carton and said “drag me downstairs? (Expletive) come drag me down,” according to the report.
As soon as she finished speaking, Cruz could be seen walking toward her and grabbing her arm, causing her to fall. After being handcuffed, Cruz repeatedly told the victim she shouldn’t have thrown a drink on him but clearly in the video she did not.
“Please don’t take me in for something I didn’t do,” the victim told Cruz.
Cruz was also seen intentionally closing his patrol vehicle’s door on the victim’s leg.
According to the investigation, the deputy who was with the woman at a hospital appeared to be afraid of Cruz and begged for him not to be let in the room.
The victim’s husband also spoke with authorities and said Cruz slammed his wife to the ground as she was screaming for him to stop, the report said.
Body camera videos of previous incidents involved Cruz were also reviewed. In one, he threatened to break a woman’s arm while handcuffing her. In another, he used sarcasm to agitate a man during a call at a restaurant.
The 26-page investigation, which found Cruz acted inappropriately, was signed and dated June 23, 2020.
Records show before he was terminated, Cruz was in trouble with the sheriff’s office a few years back.
On Sept. 26, 2018, Cruz was responding to a possible aggravated battery call on Ridge Point Drive in Orlando and immediately after he got out of his patrol car, he made contact with a man and he pulled out the stun gun, video from the encounter shows.
The man is seen walking toward the deputy.
According to the video, Cruz deployed his stun gun less than 10 seconds after getting out of his patrol car.
“You’re going to get tased,” he said. “I’ll promise you that. Get on the (expletive) ground.”
When the man asks, “What am I getting on the ground for?” Cruz deployed his Taser, the video shows.
The whole interaction between the deputy’s arrival, the Taser being deployed and the suspect falling to the ground lasts 20 seconds.
“I will tase you again,” he says when the suspect sits up. “You’re going to get tased again.”
The video ends with a woman telling Cruz, “I’m not trying to press charges. I’m just trying to calm him down.”
The man who was in the video told News 6 he just wanted to know why Cruz was there.
Cruz was suspended without pay in connection with that incident. The sheriff’s office said he didn’t follow the department’s use of force policy during the encounter.
Check back for more update on this developing story.