Courtesy of The Panama City News Herald
Published July 13, 2007
Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been asked to investigate the
Panama City Beach Police Department in the wake of a June 9 incident when
two officers entered a private meeting of condo owners at the
Fontainebleau Terrace condominium on Front Beach Road. The condo owners
were organizing to vote out the incumbent board of directors.
incident, captured on videotape by one of the owners, involved a brief
melee in which the officers allegedly shoved to the floor three of the
owners. One owner, Steven Bell, was arrested. Bell was standing at the
doorway when Ray McDonald, the condo association manager employed by the
incumbent directors, attempted to enter the meeting room.
Bell resisted, a Beach police officer, identified in Bell’s arrest
papers as Donnie Nichols, rushed past Bell, allegedly knocking over two
women standing nearby, including the videographer, who continued shooting
the incident. A second officer was at the scene but was not involved in
Grant Killingsworth, a local condo owner and area coordinator of Cyber
Citizens for Justice, an advocacy group pushing for condo owners’
rights, appeared at the Panama City Beach City Council’s regular meeting
Thursday night to ask the panel to conduct an investigation into the
said her organization is pressing for both state and federal
investigations into the incident. Plans are under way to ask the FBI to
intervene to determine if the owners’ civil rights were violated, she
state Rep. Julio Robaino, R-South Miami, told The News Herald on Thursday
that he had contacted FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey on Wednesday to
personally ask for a formal investigation of the incident. Robaino, a
five-year member of the state House, is active in consumer and legal
issues affecting condominium owners.
got a copy of a video they sent me,” Robaino said. “The eyes tell all,
and it looked like it needed an investigation.”
spokeswoman Heather Smith confirmed the department had received a request
for an investigation but could not confirm if a probe was under way.
incident was just recently brought to FDLE’s attention,” Smith said.
“We’re determining what agencies were involved and the scope of the
said members of the dissident owner’s group had arranged for a private
security guard at the 9 a.m. meeting to check for confirmation of each
attendee’s ownership status so the group could organize an alternative
slate of candidates for a board meeting scheduled for later that day. All
but a handful of the 124-unit condo’s owners are out-of-towners, so the
group wanted to ensure only legitimate people were participating in the
session, Bell said.
a brief telephone interview, McDonald confirmed that he had called Beach
police to the building when Bell and the others refused to let a cleaning
person enter the room.
guy, Steve Bell, wouldn’t let her in,” McDonald said of the cleaning
person. “He’s not in charge; he’s just an owner. … That is a
common room open to all.”
arresting affidavit accuses Bell of “resisting a law enforcement officer
without violence” and committing battery by “intentionally touching or
striking” McDonald. The charges are still pending, he said.
flatly denied the charges.
Thursday’s City Council meeting, Killingsworth complained that the Beach
Police Department has ignored the owners’ requests for an internal
affairs investigation into the behavior of the two officers involved.
has been done,” Killingsworth said. “Nobody (from the Beach Police
Department) wanted to listen to them. As a result, this has escalated.”
Gayle Oberst said that under the city charter, the city manager — not
the council itself — has the authority to investigate such incidents.
Manager Richard Jackson said that shortly after the incident, he met with
the owners involved and discussed the incident with Police Chief Robert
Harding, but the two decided against an internal investigation on the
premise the FDLE already was considering a probe. Harding was out of town
and unavailable for comment Thursday.
said he clearly believed an outside probe is warranted.
not going to give an opinion, but several things I saw on that video were
not correct,” Robaino said in a telephone interview.
IS A CONDO BUST -- NOT A DRUG BUST!
MANAGER BULLIES HIS WAY INTO "OWNERS ONLY" MEETING
Condo Owners Cry Police Brutality