Two of the Marion County deputies involved in August 2014 beating of Derrick Price testified yesterday that they did not feel as if they were in danger or believe that Price had a firearm in his possession as they were arresting him.
On top of that the deputies, Trevor Fitzgerald and Adam Crawford, admitted to lying on their follow-up reports by saying that Price resisted his arrest when he was compliant the whole time.
Fitzgerald and Crawford are two of the five Marion County deputies who were accused of using unnecessary force and beating Price on Aug. 7, 2014. Four of the officers took plea deals.
The last one, ex-deputy Jesse Terrell, is being tried this week, and Fitzgerald and Crawford were called to present their testimonies during his trial before Judge William Terrell Hodges and jurors yesterday at the U.S. District Courthouse in Ocala.
The five deputies involved in Price’s brutal beating were Fitzgerald, Crawford, Terrell, James Amidei and Cody Hoppel. Fitzgerald and Crawford were the only two to testify on Tuesday in court.
Fitzgerald said that their plan on that morning was to arrest Price. The morning before, the officers learned about Price in a briefing that covered executing search warrants.
Fitzgerald said during his testimony that Price was said to be known to have weapons in his house and that he would “bang it out” with the cops. Fitzgerald added that Price was not a man who wanted to go back to jail.
Fitzgerald said that he expected an exchange of gunfire.
While Price’s home, which contained guns, drugs and ammunition, was being searched, he fled, taking deputies on a chase that lasted for about a mile. The five deputies found Price in a parking lot where he finally stopped running and put his hands in the air.
Crawford, the other ex-deputy who testified in court, said he saw Price with his hands in the air when the deputies reached the parking lot, although he did not see how he was taken to the ground.
He said Hoppel was on Price’s left side, pinning down both of his arms as he lied on the floor, and Crawford was on Price’s right side. Fitzgerald said that he was straddling Price’s legs with both knees on top of his thighs and Terrell was on his left side closer to Price’s head.
Fitzgerald said that he put Price’s right arm into a cuff while his left arm was still pinned to the ground. He added that Crawford brought his right knee to Price’s ribs. Crawford said that he kneed Price in the ribs 12 times. Hoppel let go of Price’s left arm and began hitting Price.
According to his testimony, Crawford repeatedly yelled “stop resisting,” a common phrase he said he learned in training, so if anyone was watching they would not think he was doing anything wrong. Crawford said that in his training he also learned you can only use the amount of force necessary to get an arrest.
Fitzgerald and Crawford said that no one went to grab his left arm, so that Fitzgerald could put it into a handcuff. Both Fitzgerald and Crawford said that they saw Terrell hit Price in the face. Crawford saw him kick Price in the face.
Fitzgerald said that when the beating was over, he put Price’s left arm in the handcuff. Both Crawford and Fitzgerald did not notice Amidei, whose body camera captured the action, until after the beating.
Price was then treated by paramedics. After the incident, none of the other officers discussed what happened that morning.
The jury reviewed Google Maps’ pictures of the chase’s location, the original surveillance video, a labeled slow-motion version of the surveillance video, pictures of Price’s blood on the sidewalk, a picture of Price’s face before he was treated by paramedics, a picture of Price’s face after treatment and a video that was taken from Amidei’s body camera during Fitzgerald’s testimony.
The following Monday after the incident, Crawford and Fitzgerald said they were called into the office for being suspected of copying each other’s follow-up reports. Fitzgerald said that he believed the other officers copied his follow-up because each report misspelled the word “bang” as “bag.” Crawford admitted that he did copy this part of Fitzgerald’s report.
During that meeting, all five deputies were suspended.
Both Crawford and Fitzgerald’s reports were published to the jury.
Crawford said that he has lied on a follow-up report before, and if he had to make a guess, that he has harmed a person that he was arresting about 20 times, but this was his worst altercation.
Crawford said that he was angry at Price. He said he knew what he was doing was illegal and thought that he would get away with it like he had in the past. He said he saw the surveillance camera but hoped that it was turned off and that luck would remain on his side.
Crawford said that he joined the force to help people, to get the bad guys. But, he said, now he was the bad guy. He said he had a family and kids and that his maximum time in prison should be 30 years.
He said that his best option was to tell the truth, even if it hurts. So that’s what he said he was going to do.
Trial is set to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.