Three Florida deputies have been placed on administrative leave while the department investigates a harrowing video showing them tasing and beating a man during an arrest.
First Coast News reports that Florida Highway Patrol attempted to pull Christopher Butler over on the evening of December 29, 2019, for driving too slow and swerving on Interstate-95. Butler sped up and began to drive 80 miles per hour after the officers initiated the traffic stop. Deputies with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office (SJSO) also aided in the chase. After driving through two red lights, Butler pulled into a Winn Dixie parking lot in St. Augustine.
Butler braced himself against his vehicle when the officers attempted to pull him out. Reports say that he also kicked and punched the officers. Butler denies resisting arrest. He told Action News Jax that he was feeling unwell that night and only began speeding so that he could return the vehicle to his girlfriend.
Video taken by a bystander captures what happened after Butler was finally removed from his vehicle.
The video shows SJSO deputies ordering Butler to place his hands behind his back. One deputy shouts at Butler to get on his stomach and then tases him. Another deputy commands, "Get on your stomach, motherfucker! Now!"
Butler is seen lying on the ground crying out in pain while the deputies continue to tase him and shout at him. Butler slowly turns on his stomach.
The deputies then tell him to put his hands behind his back. The video then captures audio of what sounds like the deputies punching Butler.
(Warning: Images may be disturbing to viewers.)
Arrest records show that Butler was booked that night and charged with driving under the influence, reckless driving, fleeing an officer, resisting arrest, and battery.
St. Johns County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Charles Mulligan says the department learned of the video last Friday when a member of Butler's family brought it forward. The department reviewed the video and immediately launched an investigation into the incident.
Mulligan also confirmed that the officers were placed on administrative leave "shortly thereafter."
"At the sheriff's office, we take situations like this very seriously," Mulligan says. "The investigation is ongoing, so we're hoping to complete it as soon as possible so the sheriff can make a determination of the outcome."