ORLANDO, Fla. — An officer accused of throwing a woman to the ground, knocking her teeth out, did use excessive force, according to an internal investigation by the Orlando Police Department.
OPD Internal Affairs said in a news conference on Thursday that Officer Livio Beccaccio will face consequences for the incident involving 20-year-old Lisa Wareham.
Beccaccio was suspended without pay. Officers said that was the stiffest punishment they could give Beccaccio with current union labor agreements.
The Orlando Police Department also apologized for Beccaccio's actions.
Last September, Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney said a 42-page criminal investigation report by the department shows Beccaccio did nothing criminal when he restrained Wareham.
The February incident was captured on surveillance video.
Police called what the officer did an arm bar technique, which caused the 100-pound Wareham to land face-first on the ground, suffering two broken front teeth and bruises.
"I tasted some blood and I thought I maybe had a busted lip, and that's when I realized I spit my teeth into my hand," Wareham said.
"That one moment in time the officer takes her and throws her face-first into the pavement, that is force far in excess of what was necessary," said Wareham's attorney, Andrew Zelman.
"They're going to hit you with a nightstick, with their fist, throw you to the ground; they're going to get away with it. Why? Because they're a cop," said Wareham.
Detectives said they watched two hours of video frame by frame.
Investigators said officers tried to restrain Wareham more than once when she started arguing with a boyfriend, and the fight spilled over into another altercation.
"She was acting violently toward everyone, yet mostly, she was yelling racial slurs," said OPD Detective Patrick Schneider.
Police said Beccaccio had been leading Wareham away when she grabbed him, so he reacted with force.
"It's believed Beccaccio pushed Wareham to prevent her from further battering him," Schneider said.
"The ugly in America is police officers use force and sometimes people get hurt," said law enforcement expert Richard Weinblatt. "That's the lesson here: If you don't want to get thrown to the ground, don't touch the police."
Wareham said she plans to move forward with her civil lawsuit. She said she has endured major dental work, a loss of a job along with pain and suffering.
"I greatly appreciate that I got an apology today, but if I could, I would want him to simply say, 'I'm sorry,'" Wareham said.
The Florida Civil Rights Association has also filed a federal complaint against the OPD.
Reprinted with permission from WESH