BOYNTON BEACH — Two former and two current Boynton Beach Police officers have been indicted in connection with the beatdown of a motorist in a botched traffic stop and their subsequent lies about it.
According to the indictment, Boynton Beach Police Sergeant Phil Antico and officer Michael Brown as well as former officers Justin Harris and Ronald Ryan are each facing up to 30 years in a federal prison in the August 2014 incident off I-95.
And by the same token, the federal government pulled back just a tad the local blue wall of silence, and finally sends a strong message to Palm Beach County law enforcement officials: It’s not okay to trample of people’s civil rights — even if like Byron Harris, the victim of this particular incident, the person is black and fleeing.
Despite the FBI’s grilling of top Boynton Beach Police brass, however, the criminal charges were handed down only to lower level employees.
This, despite the fact that as Gossip Extra reported exclusively at the time, BBPD Chief Jeffrey Katz and others decided to call in the federal government weeks after the incident, and only when they found out there was footage of the beatdown from a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s helicopter.
Incidentally, sources told us at the time, the PBSO chopper left the scene as soon as the pilot figured out he was looking at police officers beating a civilian.
That part of the story, however, has yet to be addressed by the FBI.
According to the charging papers filed with the federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Sgt. Antico is charged with falsifying records and obstruction of justice.
Antico allegedly allowed the other police officers to change claims in their reports that victim Byron Harris was resisting arrest.
Antico allegedly saw the PBSO video weeks after the reports were filed and let the officers change their story, according to the indictment.
The incident started about 2 a.m. August 20, 2014 with a pursuit of a vehicle operated by Byron Harris. During the chase, Harris inadvertently struck another police officer, breaking his spine. (That officer, Jeffrey Williams, recovered and is back on the force)
Check out the PBSO video of the incident:
When the other officers caught up to Harris, the PBSO video shows they surrounded him when he fell to the floor and kicked him and beat him with their fists, then even shocked him with their Tasers.
Byron Harris’ booking photo shows his face was bruised and his eyes swollen shut.
Brown, Ryan and Harris (no relation to victim Byron Harris) are charged with violating the victim’s civil rights and lying to the FBI.
“Regardless of the specific details of this investigation, we will not let this incident of several years ago define us,” Katz told reporters this morning.
The charges brought against Byron Harris were dropped and he sued the city. Last year, the city agreed to pay him $600,000 to settle.
The incident convinced the city to issue body cameras to the entire force and provide additional training.