A Sarasota police officer is under investigation after punching a suspect in the head 10 times and then choking him unconscious during a misdemeanor arrest earlier this month.
Officer Scott Patrick was placed on paid administrative leave following his Aug. 4 arrest of Jason B. Dragash, 29, outside Club Ivory, at 1413 Main St.
According to his report, Patrick was flagged down around 3 a.m. by a woman outside the club, Alexandra Vitale, who told officers an intoxicated man inside was harassing her and her sister.
Vitale told the officers that she asked the man to leave her alone, and that she was afraid he would not stop the harassment.
Officer Patrick wrote he met Dragash outside the club, and warned him to leave Vitale alone or he would be arrested.
According to the report, Dragash said, “I don’t give a (expletive) about these whores!”
Dragash continued to yell at Vitale and the police officers. Patrick grabbed Dragash’s right arm and told him he was under arrest, which led to a fight.
“Officers attempted to gain control of the defendant’s arms and both the defendant and the officer fell into tables that were next to him, knocking beer bottles onto the ground,” the SPD report states.
The three men continued to struggle. Patrick noted in his report Dragash was in good shape and “extremely strong.”
Dragash, who could not be reached by the Herald-Tribune for comment, graduated in 2001 from Sarasota High School, where he was called “Drago,” and was both a weightlifter and an offensive lineman. The arrest report shows he is 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighs 240 pounds.
Patrick wrote he then “punched the defendant in the right side of his face approximately 10 times in an attempt to gain compliance from the defendant.”
After the punches, Patrick applied a choke hold, stating he “was able to secure the defendant’s neck and placed the defendant into the Vascular Neck Restraint, gaining compliance.”
Choke holds like the one Patrick used can result in death if improperly applied, and are considered deadly force at most police agencies. Administratively, it is treated the same as a firearms discharge.
Dragash’s face was swollen and bruised when a mugshot was taken later that morning. His right eye was nearly swollen shut. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.
Dragash was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest.
This week, prosecutors dropped all charges.
Sarasota Police Capt. Paul Sutton said the incident is under investigation. Sutton declined to provide a copy of a video tape that shows the arrest and beating, which was shot from a security camera at the club.
Sutton would not say whether Sarasota police officers are taught to use blows to the head and face to gain compliance of an unruly subject, or why Officer Patrick did not use non-lethal weapons such as a Taser or pepper spray.
Assistant State Attorney Anne Dryden did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Dragash had been arrested for disorderly intoxication in August 2006. He pled guilty a month later.
Sarasota attorney Andrea Mogensen said she will be filing suit against the city and the police department on Dragash’s behalf.
“We question why there was any reason to use force at all,” said Michael Barfield, a paralegal at the firm.
Mogensen said the charges Dragash faced do not justify the kind of force that was used during the arrest.
“Worse yet, the facts they allege don’t support the charges,” Mogensen said. “It’s not a crime to be disturbing or obnoxious. That’s not criminal. There are no ‘manners police.’”