2 Lake deputies off force for covering up accidental tasing of school employee

Jason Ruiter

Two school resource deputies lost their jobs for trying to cover up an incident in which a Leesburg High School employee was accidentally shot with a taser, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.

Master Deputy Raymond Mattiucci accidentally deployed his taser Jan. 31 when Leesburg High security monitor Jerome Scott asked him how far it could shoot, according to a Sheriff’s Office internal investigation. Deputy Darrell Blanton then colluded with Mattiucci to cover up the tasing, which caused Scott to fall unconscious and left him with a broken wrist, while another school employee was “terrified” to come forward, the report said.

Mattiucci, a Sheriff’s Office employee for over 11 years, resigned March 8 and Blanton, who had been with the agency since January 2015, was fired March 15. Neither deputy had previous disciplinary actions.

“These deputies failed to immediately report a serious incident to their supervisor and then compounded the issue by being less than truthful,” Lake Sheriff Peyton Grinnell wrote in an email. “As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest of standards and that type of conduct should not and will not be tolerated.”

Mattiucci and Blanton had a history of playing around with their tasers on school property, once pretending to tase the security monitor and pointing it “lights flashing” at the face of Leesburg High employee Pamela Nash, according to interviews with sheriff’s investigators.

The deputies kept tabs on Scott and Nash, who witnessed the incident, through text messages and face-to-face inquiries during the following week, the report said.

Nash was alone with Mattiucci and Scott in her classroom when she heard a “pop” sound and saw Scott reaching for the countertop and falling face first on the floor, the report said.

“Jerome, I am sorry!” Mattiucci said, according to Nash’s interview. Nash works as a clerical assistant, according to a school district spokeswoman.

Mattiucci then radioed Blanton, who came into the classroom and removed the probes from Scott’s body. It was another 15 minutes until Scott could speak, Nash said in the report.

Blanton then made contact with dispatch and told them an employee “fell” and the two school employees told the deputies they wouldn’t report the incident, according to interviews.

Mattiucci told investigators, “I can’t tell you how many times [Scott and Nash] flat out said we got your back … I made a grievous error believing them.”

When asked to clarify, he said, “Believing that uh … it wasn’t going to go anywhere. That’s the reason they said, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t report it. We got your back.’”

Both school employees believed it was an accident and Scott said Mattiucci offered to pay his medical costs, interviews showed. Mattiucci, who had apologized to Scott multiple times, sent him a text message the day after: “Hey if your (sic) worried about the deductible I will help with it,” the report said. The Leesburg security monitor replied with a picture of his wrist in a brace, the report said.

Mattiucci — who never paid Scott — began to avoid him the next week, eventually telling him he was short on cash because he supported five people, according to interviews.

On Feb. 6, Blanton lied to a Leesburg assistant principal that it never happened and went to Nash, asking, “Did you tell?” investigators said. That same day, when a sheriff’s corporal was seen talking to school employees, Mattiucci texted Scott, “What’s the word … Our Corp is about poking his nose around.”

Nash lost sleep over the ordeal and Scott once before told the two deputies not to playfully enact using the taser on him, but Blanton said that even though he could tell Scott was scared, he thought it was funny, the report said.

Both Leesburg High employees feared coming forward.

Around the first weekend in February, Nash told the school’s principal what happened. The principal reported the incident to deputies.

Blanton and Mattiucci were placed on administrative leave during the investigation and were accused of two violations — “departure from the truth” and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/lake/os-lake-deputies-taser-coverup-20170327-story.html?platform=hootsuite

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