A sergeant from the Sunrise Police Department who was seen on body-cam footage released last week grabbing a fellow officer’s throat was suspended with pay Wednesday afternoon and is now the subject of a criminal investigation, officials said.
This comes after Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa told the Herald in a news release Monday that he relieved Sgt. Christopher Pullease, who has been with the department for more than 21 years, of his supervisory responsibilities and ordered an internal affairs investigation immediately after he heard about the Nov. 19 incident — first reported by WSVN Channel 7.
“This is a result of criminal allegations that have been uncovered due to the internal affairs investigation,” Officer Justin Yarborough, a department spokesperson, said in an email sent Thursday.
Sunrise police are “working in conjunction with the Broward State Attorney’s Office during this criminal investigation,” Yarborough said.
The State Attorney’s office said it is aware of the criminal investigation into the 46-year-old.
“They would present their findings to prosecutors when that concludes and we would provide any assistance they request during their investigation,” Paula McMahon, public information officer for the State Attorney’s office, said in an email Thursday.
Pullease could not be reached for comment.
Citing the investigation, police released two body-cam videos after turning off the sound and blurring the faces of all the officers that appear on camera with the exception of Pullease.
“I find this behavior to be disgusting,” Rosa told WSVN in an interview last week.
Police union calls out Chief Rosa
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 80, the union that represents police officers and sergeants of the Sunrise Police Department, didn’t like what Rosa said about one of their own.
In a written statement sent to Rosa on Monday, the union demanded that Rosa recuse himself from the internal affairs investigation.
“It is apparent that he has prematurely arrived at a conclusion without attaining all the facts,” the union said.
It didn’t take long for Rosa to respond.
Rosa told the union Tuesday in a written statement that he won’t recuse himself from the internal affairs investigation.
“I want to emphasize that it is one of my highest responsibilities to ensure safe working conditions for all employees and I will not waiver from that obligation no matter who is involved,” Rosa said.
Body-cam footage shows the seargant grabbing officer’s throat
Video from cameras worn by deputies show the sergeant arriving on scene, Rosa said, as officers were placing a “verbally and physically resistive” male suspect into the backseat of a patrol vehicle for transport to jail, according to the news release.
The suspect — identified in a police report as Jean Similien, 25, from Sunrise — had been placed under arrest at 1201 Sunset Strip, accused of punching a man in the face four or five times.
“Once the suspect was inside the patrol vehicle, the sergeant approached and engaged in a verbal altercation with the suspect in a manner that I feel was inappropriate and unprofessional,” Rosa said in the news release.
While speaking to the suspect, the sergeant is seen on footage holding a can of pepper spray. Rosa told WSVN that Pullease was pointing it at the handcuffed suspect.
Concerned with things escalating further, an officer approached the sergeant from behind, grabbed him by the back of his duty belt and pulled him backward, Rosa said in the release.
The video subsequently shows the sergeant turning around, putting his left hand up against the throat of the 28-year-old officer and pushing her back against a vehicle.
Police will not release the name of the officer — who has been with the department for less than three years — because she is a witness, Yarborough noted Tuesday.
“The men and women of the Sunrise Police Department are expected to de-escalate emotionally charged situations and intervene immediately if it appears that a fellow officer is losing control of themselves,” Rosa added in the release.