Video shows Florida police officer hitting suspect with tennis racket, raising questions over excessive force

Video from an officer's body camera that was recently released by the Daytona Beach Police Department is raising questions about excessive force.  

In the video, a police officer is seen hitting a man in the head with a tennis racket while a police K-9 is biting the suspect.

The video appears to show a police officer making an arrest in early April in response to a report of a burglary at a car dealership at 451 N Nova Rd.

An officer with a K-9 and another officer both confronted the suspect behind a business. According to the DBPD, the K-9 officer identified himself and gave the suspect multiple commands to get on the ground and cooperate.

"Ignoring these orders and showing heightened aggression, the police K-9, Vezer, was released to assist in apprehending him," read a DBPD statement sent to FOX 35 News.

In the video, you can see the suspect grab a tennis racket and hold it out, apparently trying to defend himself against the dog.

"The suspect aggressively used the racket against Vezer while also kicking him, and then made attempts to choke the K-9 by wrapping both his legs and arms around the dog's neck, a potentially fatal series of actions," the DBPD statement read.

The video then shows the officer grabbing the racket from the suspect as the K-9 is attacking him, and starts to beat the suspect's head with the racket, striking him several times. According to a report, officers also used a Taser on the suspect.

The DBPD said the officer was attempting to keep the suspect from harming the K-9, which is a felony in Florida, and that his actions were justified, and did not violate any of the department's policies. 

"The use of improvised weapons is allowed per policy, and in contrast to the other alternatives available, this was the safest choice for everyone involved," the DBPD said.

Eventually, officers were able to apprehend the suspect and secure the K-9.

"The arrestee was in a prone position, he was defenseless, he was not fleeing, he was surrounded by officers and still being attacked by the K-9 when he was beaten over the head with a tennis racket," said attorney Albert Yonfa with the NeJame Law. "So, in that sense, the officer first should have stopped the K-9 and then there wouldn't have been an issue. They arrest him, and they cuff him."

Yonfa believes this is a case of excessive force. 

"In this case, I don't see that the officer first attempted to remove the K-9 from the suspect before using that excessive force," Yonfa added. "Was he choking the dog or was he just trying to protect himself from an ongoing attack? Either way, it doesn't justify grabbing the tennis racket and beating the suspect over the head."

Yonfa also said the officers knew that this man was not in his right mind. 

"He's saying, ‘I love you. I love you.’ Over and over again to somebody. ‘I love you, honey.’ He's singing the national anthem. At no point did he try to flee."

The suspect was arrested and charged with multiple felonies including burglary, battery, and resisting arrest. The DBPD said his case is open and in progress with the State Attorney's Office.