A South Florida police sergeant has been taken off the street after a video of him choking a fellow officer emerged last week.
Sgt. Christopher Pullease has been relieved of his supervisory duties with the Sunrise, Florida, police department and is now under investigation after local news station WSVN, acting on a tip, began asking about an incident in which Pullease grabbed a female officer by the throat.
The incident occurred on Nov. 19 when officers were called to a convenience store on Sunset Strip after complaints about an individual committing aggravated battery. A man identified as Jean Bernard Similien, reportedly attacked several people outside the business sunrise police, Chief Anthony Rosa told Local 10 News.
Cops were trying to place Similien inside the patrol car, but he resisted. Rosa told the news station that once Similien was inside but refusing to allow the doors to close, Pullease “approached and engaged in a verbal altercation with the suspect in a manner that I feel was inappropriate and unprofessional.”
He noted, “This supervisor escalated the encounter instead of de-escalating an emotionally charged situation.”
Audio in the body camera clip released by the Sunrise Police Department has been removed. However, Pullease can be seen leaning into the car in front of Similien while holding his can of pepper spray in front of Similien as if he’s about to use it.
Soon afterward, a nearby officer whose face in the video is blurred and whose name has not been released, comes running toward Pullease and grabs him by his belt, pulling him away from the Similien.
That’s when the sergeant is captured turning around and aggressively grabbing the officer by the neck while pushing her backward toward another police car. He then returns to the patrol car and slams the door before turning back to continue yelling and pointing at the female officer who stopped him.
Rosa, who said last week Pullease is on desk duty pending an internal affairs investigation — but did not say whether Pullease was taken off the street immediately after the incident or only when news of the incident came to llight — described the sergeant’s behavior in the clip to WSVN last week as “disgusting” when asked about his initial reaction. “I think the video speaks for itself,” Rosa added.
When asked why he wasn’t the officer arrested, citing that had a civilian done the same, they’d be arrested, Rosa said that at the moment he was unable to disclose more on the case but would keep the public updated.
Rosa also noted that Sunrise officers are required to “de-escalate and intervene” if an officer appears to lose control or display inappropriate conduct.
“This officer intervening and stopping a situation from getting any worse is a direct reflection of the training that we do do with the police department, and I think that it’s important to note that the behavior is very unacceptable by the sergeant, but the behavior of the officer that intervened is exactly what society’s asking their police officers to do right now,” he said.
Elsewhere, Rosa commended the actions of the 28-year-old police officer. “I am very proud of the officer involved in this incident and believe that the actions taken were definitive and demonstrative of good leadership during a tense situation,” he shared.
Pullease has been with the Florida police department for 21 years, while the subordinate personnel has been there for two.
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