Darnell says warning more appropriate for Morrison than arrest
Published: Monday, July 22, 2013 at 7:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 22, 2013 at 7:14 p.m.
On the same day the Alachua County Sheriff's Office released the dashboard camera video of the Sunday morning of arrest of University of Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison, Sheriff Sadie Darnell said the arresting deputy should have given the 19-year-old a warning for barking at a police dog instead of placing him under arrest.
Darnell also said the arrest was a split-second decision during chaos.
The video footage does not show Morrison barking at Deputy William Arnold's K-9, but it does show Morrison walking past the vehicle with a small group of males before being beckoned by Arnold and then quickly being placed under arrest as multiple officers converged on him. Morrison appeared to tense his arms initially but quickly acquiesced as his head was placed against the hood of the police vehicle and cuffs appeared to be placed on his arms behind his back. Morrison can be seen throughout the arrest turning his head and speaking to the officers.
Minutes later, Morrison can be heard pleading with Arnold to release him.
"Officer, please let me go," a voice, presumably that of Morrison, can be heard saying. "I'm not looking for any trouble. I just said, ‘Woof, woof.' "
Arnold responded by telling Morrison that his behavior was the reason he wasn't letting him go and that he was not cooperative.
Shortly afterward, in what appears to be a conversation between Arnold and another member of law enforcement, Arnold can be heard saying, "Yeah, my patience is pretty thin."
During an interview Monday afternoon, Darnell told The Sun that she believed the deputy was technically correct that Morrison could be charged under the law that prohibits taunting police animals, but she stated that, given the obscure nature of the law and the fact that Morrison was probably unaware of it, a warning would have been more appropriate.
While acknowledging that the arrest may have been heavy-handed, Darnell was careful to point out that the incident occurred next door to All Star Sports Bar on Southwest 13th Street. The bar and grill can stay open until 4 a.m. as long as it stops serving alcohol at 2 a.m. and has been the subject of more than 200 police calls and investigations for numerous violent crimes.
"Our deputies are caught in a lot of threatening situations and are having to make rational, very well-thought-out decisions in the context of chaos, and sometimes they don't think them all the way through," Darnell said.
On Sunday morning deputies were responding to a report of an aggravated assault at the scene.
Around 30 minutes after placing Morrison under arrest, a frustrated Arnold can be heard on the recording explaining to Morrison the reason for arresting him.
"Let me simply explain something to you," Arnold said. "I've been listening to you for a few minutes, and here's the problem I got with this, all right? My dog is watching my back and their back. Stop talking. When you walk up to the window and say something to him, you distract him if I need him. So if I open my door remotely with this push button, he's coming out to you and not to me when I need him. That's the end of the story. That's interfering, harassment and teasing a police dog while he's engaged in his duty. That's what you're being arrested for. All right?"
Morrison's response cannot be understood, but it clearly added to Arnold's frustration.
"I'm being very direct and to the point with you. You're not getting it. You're not getting it at all. You can continue to sit here with your crocodile tears and ask me for favors and do whatever. I'm telling you, you're going to jail for interfering with my dog. That's it."
Morrison was arrested on two misdemeanor charges and was released from the Alachua County jail Sunday afternoon, but the area's chief prosecutor said late Sunday that he has some concerns about the legality of the charges.
"Based on the initial report, I have to question the sufficiency of the evidence to constitute a crime," State Attorney Bill Cervone said. "Simply barking at a dog may not be enough. I'll have to look at the statute," he said, noting that the law calls for malicious intent.
Morrison has been suspended for at least two games from the UF football team as a result of the arrest, which is his second incident involving law enforcement within five weeks. He was arrested by Gainesville police after an incident June 16 outside the Kava Bar & Hookah Lounge at 1007 W. University Ave.
Police officers said he got into an argument with a bouncer who refused to waive the cover charge for Morrison. He hit the bouncer with his fist on top of the head, according to police.
Morrison was subsequently offered a deferred prosecution that required him to pay $100 in fines, perform community service hours, attend a drug and alcohol program and anger management classes, and take part in two eight-hour ride-alongs with UF police. The new arrest could place Morrison's prior plea deal in jeopardy.
UF has not commented on whether the possibility that the state attorney will drop the charges against Morrison could affect his suspension.