Screaming in pain with a ruptured spleen that would have to be removed in an emergency surgery, Robert Liese cried out for medical attention 35 times in a downtown Orlando holding cell.
He was laying on the ground with his hands and feet bound.
Despite an Orlando police officer hearing Liese’s pleas for help, he was ignored for nearly two hours.
For their actions, or lack of actions, Orlando police Officer Peter Delio and Sgt. William Faulkner were fired from the department on Wednesday.
The incident unfolded on Aug. 12, 2014, when Liese, 41, was arrested along Orange Avenue for allegedly not paying a $60 bar tab and taken to a substation on Washington Avenue.
An apparently drunk and handcuffed Liese broke a glass window on a cell door after he banged his head on it.
Delio walked into the cell and allegedly kneed Liese in the abdomen so hard that it ruptured his spleen.
Faulkner also did not respond to Liese’s request for medical assistance for 90 minutes, according to his termination letter.
Attorney William Ruffier, who is suing the city on behalf of Liese, said he was surprised by the firings because Police Chief John Mina said in a recent deposition that he didn’t think Delio assaulted his client.
“I think it’s something they should have been doing a long time ago,” Ruffier said. “If they had done that a long time ago and said ‘this is not acceptable behavior’ then they wouldn’t be having the problems they are now having.”
Mina said he wasn’t interested in getting into a back and forth about a civil lawsuit.
“Bottom line, Delio has been charged criminally and he and Faulkner were both terminated,” he said in an email Wednesday.
After the incident, Mina had requested a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation which ultimately led to the criminal charges filed against Delio in March.
An initial investigation by OPD led to Delio, a 7-year veteran with the department, being suspended for a week without pay in December for the knee strike.
But another probe was launched by OPD in April trying to determine if Delio treated Liese in a “humane manner,” according to his termination letter.
OPD determined that Delio and Faulkner violated its treatment of prisoners policy, which says they should be “treated humanely and with regard to their legal rights.”
After Delio kneed Liese, he tied Liese’s ankles together so he couldn’t walk and then left the cell. Liese was left there for nearly two hours.
“While on the ground, Liese can be heard and seen through the audio/video writhing in pain crying out for medical attention 35 times over the next 1 hour and 50 minutes,” according to Delio’s termination letter.
Delio told internal affairs investigators he heard yelling coming from the cell but did not know it was Liese, despite the fact that Liese was the only prisoner in the cell. There also was a computer where Delio could see video of inside the cell.
The termination letter stated it was “not fathomable” that Delio couldn’t hear Liese’s pleas for help or see him laying on the ground in an apparent unconscious state.
“The conduct outlined in the investigation cannot be tolerated by an employee of the Orlando Police Department and undermines the employee’s credibility as a law enforcement officer,” according to the termination letter.
Delio also is facing criminal battery charges. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
According to Faulkner’s termination letter, he wrote in his report and told internal affairs that Liese said he didn’t need medical assistance. But in the video, Liese can be heard screaming for medical attention.
Because of that, Faulkner, who was hired in 2003, also violated the department’s truthfulness policy.
“Sgt. Faulkner blatantly ignored Liese’s repeated pleas for medical assistance,” his termination letter stated. “Liese was obviously in a great amount of pain and distress. This put Liese at medical risk.”
The letter said as a sergeant, his role is to maintain policy and instill core values.
“To do otherwise devalues his role as supervisor,” it said. “He must set the example for others to follow.”
The Orlando Fire Department was eventually called and Liese was attended to.
Liese, who pleaded no contest to resisting arrest without violence, defrauding an inn keeper and criminal mischief, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Orlando Police Department. The case is pending.
Shawn Dunlap, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, declined comment, saying Delio and Faulkner’s appeals had yet to be heard.
Delio and Faulkner join William Escobar and David Johnston as officer who have been fired from the department.
Escobar was fired in February after he allegedly kicked and punched a man during an arrest because the man tried to kick him. Prosecutors say he lied about the suspect resisting arrest.
Johnston pleaded guilty in May to firing 23 shots at a domestic-violence suspect fleeing police in a downtown parking garage. He was sentenced to five years probation for the crime.
David Harris, “OPD officer, sergeant fired after inmate left screaming in pain for 2 hours”, September 30, 2015, Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-orlando-police-delio-faulker-fired-20150930-story.html