Misconduct allegations were sustained against five Gainesville police officers. Some community members say the punishments assigned won’t change a problematic culture.
Gainesville Police Department released the results of an internal affairs investigation into misconduct related to the arrest of Terrell Bradley, who lost his eye to a K9 after running from a traffic stop this summer.
The allegations against all five officers were sustained, but critics questioned whether the assigned punishments can change what they called an ingrained, problematic mindset.
Three officers – Dustin Johnson, Justin Snitselaar and Maurquice Miller – were given written warnings for taking photos of Bradley’s injuries on cell phones, informally sharing them and not submitting them into evidence.
The investigation also revealed an internal message exchange between officers Matthew Shott and Andrew Milman that police advisory council member Fareed Johnson summarized as “bragging and self-glorifying of aggressive and abusive police style.”
In part of the exchange, Shott congratulates Milman for Bradley’s injuries.
Shott: and then I heard tonight you bit someone’s eye off
Milman: it twas the nastiest thing ever his eye was split open and just hanging outside of his face
Shott: I saw the pictures BRAVO
Milman: Maybe if these stories get around criminals will stop running from me
Shott: hopefully not, these bedtime stories are too good
Milman: lol I was about to say that would take the fun out of this job
Shott: im just surprised you are on the road and not glue to the IA office chair
Later in the exchange, Milman said he thinks the department keeps giving him trainees “because they know it slows me down.”
Shott: lol doesn’t seem too slow down too much. Anything else cool happen
Click to read the entire message exchange included in the report
The officers told investigator Lt. Timothy Durst this exchange was just “general banter,” but both agreed some of the messages seem unprofessional and insensitive.
Shott and Milman were assigned written warnings, 5-day suspensions without pay, training from the City of Gainesville Office of Equity and Inclusion, and 30 hours of paid, on-duty community engagement. Milman was also removed from the field training program, through which he showed five newer officers how to police Gainesville.
Johnson said these “light punishments” indicate “the department didn’t find anything to be too bad about it.”
“If their everyday duties don’t change their mindset and give them compassion and empathy for folks,” he said, “then community engagement isn’t going to do it either.”
Durst conducted a review of Milman’s messages on the internal communication system between April 1 and Sept. 12 and noted similar messages related to “geographic areas of the city and foot pursuits.”
To a supervisor, Milman wrote: “Plus im driving out east right now im still down to have some fun tonight.”
To another officer: “im going through sugar hill then going out west so we do some stop out there before it gets to late”
The officer responded: “Heading to 20th AVE now.”
A portion of that road cuts through majority Black neighborhoods. Sugarhill and the east side of Gainesville are also majority Black.
Milman also displayed an eagerness for foot chases in his messages.
He messaged one officer: “On a scale of 1 to foot pursuit how bad do you want to chase someone today lol.”
While attempting to locate a female suspect, he wrote: “I may even be able to catch her in a foot chase lmao.”
The investigation revealed Milman was often placed on “special details” to “seek out and enforce violations.”
The report said officers are sometimes chosen for these details based on their “willingness to be proactive and whether they have been successful in the past on special details,” other times by their assigned geographical area. Milman’s assigned area is adjacent to areas with high reports of gun violence, the report said.
Recent areas of focus named in the report included Sweetwater Square – where Bradley was pulled over – Gardenia Gardens, Carol Estates and Carver Gardens. All are majority Black.
Police department officials said this kind of “proactive enforcement” and police presence is necessary due to reports of shootings and gun violence.
After Bradley ran, a loaded Glock pistol with an extended magazine and additional ammo were found in the car he was driving. This year, Gainesville police have recovered more than one gun a day on average.
But this strategy of geographic targeting also means that any misconduct disproportionately affects majority Black areas.
The department labels these neighborhoods high-crime, while community organizers call them under-resourced. From either perspective, the report validates community complaints in the wake of Bradley’s mauling that Black neighborhoods are policed differently and more heavily.
Bradley’s father, Victor Bradley, said this disparity in Gainesville’s policing isn’t new. He noticed the same pattern when he was an officer in the mid-1990s.
Community organizer Danielle Chanzes said the report also backs the community’s claims that the incident with Bradley was racially motivated.
“We don’t believe the situation would have escalated the way it had if Terrell had not been a Black man,” Chanzes said. “They were looking to escalate a situation.”
The police report said Bradley ran a stop sign at an intersection where there is no stop sign. Police pointed to a Florida statute that applies regardless of the presence of a stop sign.
Milman said he asked Bradley to step out because of indications of marijuana – for which a lawyer later told a judge she’d been told he has a medical card – and because he was making “furtive movements toward under the seat,” which cannot be seen on the body camera footage. Police Chief Lonnie Scott said that was due to the angle of the body camera. In the footage, Bradley frequently gestures his hands in the air.
In the footage, Bradley steps out, but Milman appears to struggle to pin his arms, and then Bradley runs.
“I got afraid,” Bradley told WUFT. “I’d been hearing about a lot of incidents where people just been getting killed by mishaps.”
When they discovered the gun and a 12-year-old felony conviction on Bradley’s record, they initiated a K9 search. The K9 “Ranger” mauled Bradley – by then unarmed and hiding the bushes – for 46 seconds before officers disengaged it. In addition to his lost eye, Bradley suffered spinal leakage, two broken fingers, and required 12 stitches near his temple.
Bradley plead not guilty Tuesday to four charges related to running from the stop and what they found in the car. A case management hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
What the police department called proactive, some community members called pretextual, or DWB: Driving While Black.
The report’s contents also echo what Bradley’s mother, Karen Hutchinson, said she witnessed in the waiting room of UF Health Shands Hospital: officers showing photos of her son’s injuries on their cell phones, laughing and boasting of the takedown – a sight she said is burned into her mind forever.
“While we need our police officers, and we want to support our police officers,” Johnson said, “it’s unfortunate that we have officers that are perpetuating the problems that people are speaking about with law enforcement.”
The City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion has not yet responded to questions about what the training assigned to Milman and Shott entails.
A police department spokesperson said the goal of the training and community engagement is to increase sensitivity and empathy, but did not say how success would be measured.
Chanzes said officers haven’t really been held accountable – the discipline doesn’t seem like enough. She said no progress has been made towards the demands protestors made in July, and people still want answers.
Since then, WUFT reported on a lawsuit by a former Gainesville K9 officer alleging racial discrimination by the unit, which is scheduled to be heard by a federal court in April.
“It just seems like this K9 unit shouldn’t really exist,” Chanzes said, and invited community members to make their voices heard about partially defunding or dismantling it.
Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker called for a special city commission meeting to discuss the police department’s K9 policy following the results of the initial internal investigation, which found no violations in Bradley’s arrest. That meeting will be held on Oct. 12.