Punta Gorda officer under investigation for using Taser on 91-year-old

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. A Punta Gorda police officer is under internal investigation for using a Taser on a 91-year-old man.

“Officer Kleiver’s use of the electronic control device, based on the subject’s age, is outside our department policy and training,” Chief Thomas Lewis said in a statement. “The internal affairs investigation is currently active and we do not anticipate that it will take very long to complete.”

Officers J. Kleiver and J. Girard responded to a disturbance at Brookdale Punta Gorda Isles Assisted Living Solutions Wednesday, where staffers said Daniel Diaz kicked a nurse, swung at an employee and threatened to hurt other staff.

Diaz “appeared to be extremely agitated as he was yelling, his body was tensed up and his fists were balled up” when officers arrived, according to an incident report.

Diaz, who suffers from dementia, switched between being agitated and calm, making statements that included “go ahead and shoot me” and “I want to kill every one of them,” the report said.

The officers decided to take Diaz into custody under the Baker Act, where a person with a mental illness can be detained by law enforcement for evaluation and treatment.

“(Kleiver) attempted to gain willing compliance from Diaz by talking to him so that he could leave the Sterling House as he had desired, but Diaz did not appear to trust the officers and refused to go with them,” the report said. “After several attempts to convince Diaz to be compliant it became clear that officers would likely have to go hands on and physically restrain Diaz in order to transport him to the nearest facility.”

Diaz refused to put his hands behind his back, and tensed his arms when the officers grabbed him, the report said.

“(Kleiver) considered his options of the best way to place Diaz in handcuffs while causing the least amount of harm to Diaz even though he was actively resisting,” the report said. “At that time Ofc. Girard and this officer were holding onto Diaz`s arms while standing in between chairs, couches, a wooden coffee table and a fireplace with a brick hearth which stood several inches above the floor. This officer feared that the use of a distraction technique followed by a takedown to the floor would likely result in Diaz and/or officers landing hard on the coffee table or fireplace hearth.”

The officers were able to place Diaz on the couch, but he continued resisting, the report said.

“With both officers each holding onto one of Diaz`s arms and Diaz facing Ofc. Girard while on his side on the couch, (Kleiver) observed Diaz leaning his head forward with his mouth open toward one of Ofc. Girard’s,” the report said. “It appeared that Diaz was trying to bite Ofc. Girard as Diaz bared his teeth.”

Girard tried to keep his arm away from Diaz’ mouth while commanding him to stop, the report said.

“Due to Diaz’s actions of attempting to bite Ofc. Girard, the fact that he had already attacked a nurse and Diaz’s statements about killing himself with this officer’s gun, this officer felt it necessary to end the struggle immediately to reduce the risk of Diaz getting injured and before Diaz escalated the situation more,” the report said.

Girard considered using pepper spray, but feared it would cause more harm than good in such close quarters, the report said.

“This officer felt a close quarter deployment of his Taser with a three point contact was the best option to stop Diaz’s active aggression and gain control of Diaz with minimal likelihood of injury,” the report said.

Girard pulled his Taser and warned Diaz he would be “tased” if he continued resisting, the report said.

“Diaz was observed leaning his head toward Ofc. Girard’s arms and hands again with an open mouth,” the report said. “This officer then targeted Diaz’ left shoulder blade and deployed the Taser from approximately one inch from Diaz’ clothing.”

Diaz stopped resisting immediately , the report said. He was transported to Bayfront Health Punta Gorda for observation, then was released and taken to Riverside Behavioral Center without incident, the report said.