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Rookie Fla. Officer Resigns After Juvenile Suspect Dies; Use of Excessive Force Found

The Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - A rookie police officer under scrutiny in the death of a suspect last week has resigned after police found he used excessive force on a juvenile detainee in September.

Kaleb Underwood, 27, resigned Saturday after an Internal Affairs report said he struck a handcuffed juvenile suspect in the head with his knee on Sept. 23. The boy wasn't resisting arrest, the report said.

Jacksonville police union President Nelson Cuba said he advised Underwood, a rookie still on his probationary term, to resign based on the excessive force finding.

"He was a probationary employee, so it was in his best interest to resign," Cuba said.

But Cuba said the resignation wasn't an admission of guilt in Friday's death of Sammy Lee Evans.

Evans was arrested for having an open container of alcohol across the street from his house. Police said Evans was struggling with Underwood and hit his head on the ground as he resisted arrest.

But Evan's family and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People claimed police brutality and racial profiling after witnesses said Evans had complained that his handcuffs were too tight, then the officer slammed him to the ground.

Evans was unresponsive after hitting the ground and died an hour later. Autopsy results were pending.

Police will continue the probe into Evans' death, including whether criminal actions were involved, Sheriff John Rutherford said.

Rutherford said it was a coincidence that officials issued the prior excessive force charge against Underwood on Friday. He also denied that police target blacks unfairly.

"To say there's a pattern of brutality that's been permitted by the administration is simply incorrect and unfair," Rutherford said.

Underwood joined the Sheriff's Office in June 2003 and was 27 days from completing his probationary work term.

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