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    ‘Big cover-up:’ Man files excessive force lawsuit against Apopka police

    News briefing held by nationally recognized civil rights activist John C. Barnett

    APOPKA, Fla. – A former Maitland police officer held a news briefing with his attorney Wednesday, accusing several Apopka officers of beating him while he was listening to music in his car.

    At the news conference, held at Apopka City Hall, attorneys representing Jason Friend discussed the case, saying it was a “small city, big problem” involving a “former cop beaten by cops.”

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    Friend was arrested in Apopka in November 2019 on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, but the charges were later dropped.

    According to national civil rights activist John C. Barnett, Friend “was in his own yard, sitting in his car playing music, reminiscing about his mother’s death” when Apopka police officers approached Friend, told him his music was too loud and dragged him out of the car and beat him.

    Barnett said Friend was attacked by the officers before he had a chance to respond.

    At the briefing, Friend said his day started out normally before he began grieving his mother, who died a few months before the incident. He decided to go to Burger King while listening to songs his mom liked before driving back home.

    When he parked his car back in his driveway, he said he “didn’t hear the radio being so loud” and was “zoned out” when officers approached his car.

    The complaint filed by Friend alleges, “The Apopka police officers physically extracted (Friend) from his vehicle and then beat him with closed fists and a baton. They then Tased him without justification, causing significant injuries ... The Apopka police officers ... acted in a malignant purposeful manner and excessively physically abused (Friend) without cause or justification while he was on his property.”

    Friend said officers caused both emotional and physical damage, resulting in cracked ribs, a broken nose and a brain injury that now affects his short-term memory.

    “I wasn’t angry at nobody. I was grieving my mom’s death. And next thing I know I’m getting pounced on by four cops,” Friend said.

    Barnett and Friend also questioned parts of the police’s process during the arrest and investigation, claiming they didn’t file the proper supplemental reports, submit pictures of Friend’s — or the officers’ injuries — or take Friend’s fingerprints in a timely manner.

    Friend called it “a big cover-up from beginning to end.”

    Additionally, a video circulating on social media shows footage of the alleged incident. In the video, officers can be seen dragging a man out of a car before hitting and Tasing him.

    Friend said while he doesn’t recall what happened, he watched the video to remember how it unfolded. According to Friend, the neighbor who recorded the video was the same one who called 911 after witnessing police hitting him.

    The Apopka Police Department issued the following statement in response to the video:

    “The events depicted in the video currently circulating on social media sites, including Tik Tok, occurred on November 28, 2019. It has been brought to the City’s attention that the parties involved have filed an action against the City in Circuit Court. The City has not been served with the complaint. The City does not comment on pending litigation.”

    Though Apopka police will not comment on the pending legal fight, the department is working to release redacted body camera video from the arrest.

    Apopka police also confirmed that officer Nathaniel Tuck was one of the officers on scene that night. Tuck has since resigned from Apopka Police. He was also one of the men charged for his role in the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021. His lawyer, in that case, said he’s pleaded not guilty.

    Friend submitted the civil case in November 2021 and is suing the defendants for over $100,000.

    An Apopka Police Department arrest affidavit tells a different story, saying officers responded to Friend’s home and found him sitting in his car, listening to loud music while heavily intoxicated.

    According to the affidavit, the officers “attempted to speak to (Friend) several times and he ignored (them).”

    Police said Friend “aggressively struck” an officer as he attempted to remove his keys from the ignition and tried to remove something from under his seat. Friend said at the news briefing he had no gun or weapon.

    The report states that as officers tried to apprehend Friend, he continued to strike and kick them, after which they Tased and secured him.

    Friend, along with a few officers, sustained injuries during the incident, according to the affidavit.

    Police then said Friend was taken to a hospital before being booked in the Orange County Jail.


    About the Author:

    Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.