By Kevin Deutsch
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony on Friday fired a veteran deputy for using excessive force against a man in North Lauderdale, pressing his knee into the man’s neck and keeping it there during a videotaped incident, the sheriff announced.
On Apr. 1, 2020, Deputy Ronald Thurston was called out to a follow-up investigation involving a prior crime when he “made a series of choices that escalated the call and led to his firing” for brutalizing the man, Tony said in a written announcement Friday.
Thurston later said he would have killed the man if he could do things differently, according to the sheriff.
“His actions were egregious and do not reflect our agency’s training and de-escalation tactics,” Tony said after firing the deputy. “His actions show that he possesses neither the temperament nor the decision-making ability to wear a badge and carry a gun.”
The incident began after Thurston made contact with the man in the 100 block of San Remo Boulevard. He refused to cooperate with Thurston’s lawful commands and attempted to flee, according to BSO.
“After Thurston pulled his gun and threatened to shoot him, the man complied and immediately got on the ground face down,” Tony said. “At that point, Thurston had every opportunity to de-escalate the situation, yet he chose not to. Thurston kept his knee on the man’s neck, even after [the man] expressed discomfort and asked Thurston to remove his knee.”
After other deputies arrived to assist, “the man was secured, and a gun was removed from his pocket during the pat-down search,” Tony said.
With backup deputies on scene and the man handcuffed, the situation was under control, Tony said.
But Thurston’s excessive force continued, according to the sheriff.
The deputy struck the man with his forearm, slamming his head into a BSO vehicle, Tony said.
Once BSO’s Internal Affairs unit learned of the incident, BSO Public Corruption Unit detectives immediately investigated.
They turned their case findings over to the Broward State Attorney’s Office on Sept. 22, 2020, for possible criminal charges.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Thurston, Tony said.
Once BSO finished its administrative investigation, the agency sent its finding to BSO’s Professional Standards Committee (PSC). The PSC recommended a three-day suspension for Thurston, according to Tony, who decided to terminate.
The sheriff said his agency “will not tolerate any excessive use of force.”
“It’s clear from the video and the entire investigation conducted by BSO, Thurston acted in a manner outside the bounds of proper and effective law enforcement and should be terminated,” said Tony.
“Equally concerning was a comment Thurston made during [a statement]. When asked if he could do things differently in the future, Thurston said, “I probably would have killed him right there, and we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it.”
Tony said he would have the backs of his deputies and support them when they do the right thing.
“Conversely, when deputies are accused of stepping out of line, they will be investigated and, when necessary, held accountable for their actions,” said the sheriff.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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