A Sarasota Police officer accused of punching a man in the head and then putting him in a "sleeper hold," known as a vascular neck restraint, has been cleared of using excessive force during an arrest.
Officer Patrick Scott had been charged with battery in the case, but the State Attorney's Office decided against going forward with the charges after having two independent experts in the use of force — including one from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — examine the case.
According to an interdepartmental memo released by the State Attorney's Office:
Scott who was on patrol in the early morning of Aug. 4 was approached by two women who said Jason Dragash was drunk, belligerent and harassing one of their friends. After a "brief encounter" with Dragash, Patrick led him into the Ivory Lounge.
After leaving the lounge Patrick overheard Dragash making several loud comments, so he went back inside and the two had a "verbal exchange." Dragash stood up in what Patrick perceived as an aggressive manner and at that point Patrick with assistance from Officer Tripp Schwenk attempted to arrest Dragash.
After they were unable to handcuff Dragash, Patrick hit him in the head six to seven times, according to the investigation. When that didn't work he immediately used a "Vascular Neck Restraint," used to "decrease the blood supply to the brain causing altered levels of consciousness." Also known as a sleeper hold or choke hold it left Dragash unconscious.
Dragash was then transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for his injuries, according to the affidavit.
A surveillance camera captured footage of the arrest.
Dragash sustained lacerations and bruises on the right side of his face and cuts on his right knee from broken beer bottles on the ground.
The state reviewed 27 cases from various areas in an effort to determine whether the arrest warranted battery charges against the officer. They also looked at a Florida statute that says a police officers may use any force to reasonably defend themselves when making an arrest.
Other officers who witnessed Patrick's actions testified during the investigation that he was justified in his use of force. A Lieutenant with the Sarasota Criminal Justice Academy and an expert with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also testified that the level of force was justified and was not excessive.