ORLANDO, Fla. — A 26-year-old Orlando police officer threw an 84-year-old man to the ground so hard during a confrontation over the weekend that it broke his neck.
Daniel Daley is recovering at Florida Hospital where he underwent surgery for a broken neck Monday after he was arrested by Officer Travis Lamont late Saturday night. Daley’s son, Greg, told WFTV Monday he made it through surgery and is in intensive care.
Police said the war veteran committed a crime when he grabbed Officer Travis Lamont and officials said they will press charges against him.
Not everyone believes the officer did the right thing. Eyewitnesses said Daniel Daley might have stumbled into the officer, but they never saw him grab the officer around the neck, pull back his fist, or threaten to knock down the officer.
Daley was an Army intelligence officer during World War II and also served during Vietnam. Eyewitness Sean Hill said Daley did not draw back to punch the officer. He showed WFTV what happened before the officer threw him to the ground.
“He said, ‘I’m not done talking to this cop.’ Whether it was alcohol, he stumbled. He’s 84 years old; he needs a walker,” Hill said.
Hill said he will never forget the sound of Daley’s head hitting the pavement.
“Like a watermelon. Pop!” he described.
Orlando police said Daniel Daley was intoxicated when he grabbed the officer’s neck and then threatened to punch him. WFTV spoke with Orlando Police Department Sgt. Barbara Jones Monday (full interview) , who said Daley had a .187 alcohol level, twice the legal limit for driving.
“He grabbed the officer, pulled back his arm and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere until I knock out this cop,’ something to that effect,” Jones said.
Orlando police are defending Officer Lamont even before their review to determine whether his use of force was justified.
“Everybody is focusing on the age. I am focusing on the action of the person. People, 84, can kill officers, too, can cold-cock my officer in the face, knock him out and now you’ve got an officer laying down on the ground with a gun, and everything is completely out of control,” Jones said.
Officer Lamont had been called to the parking lot of The Caboose bar on North Orange Avenue south of Princeton Street (see map) around 11:00pm Saturday, after reports that Daley was arguing with a tow truck driver. Daley had gotten upset that his car was being towed. He allegedly unknowingly parked in a local market’s parking space.
Local bar owner Tim Scott said he had words with the officer.
“I told him, ‘Dude, you’re tougher than that.’ He said, ‘I didn’t know what he was going to do,'” Scott explained.
Greg Daley said he isn’t giving up.
“The severity of his injuries just seem as though an overwhelming amount of power to take him down like that,” he said (full interview) .
Greg Daley plans to take the Orlando Police Department to court and is considering pushing for a criminal investigation into Officer Lamont’s actions.
Attorney Mark NeJame says he’s representing Daley’s son and if the police did something wrong he’s going after them.
Police will review Daley’s arrest to determine whether the officer used excessive force. If he’s cleared, the only way there would be an internal affairs investigation is if Daley or his family files a complaint and that would also be reviewed by the Citizens Review Board.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said the state attorney could investigate it criminally.
“The State Attorney’s Office has the authority to take it to the grand jury and let the grand jury decide whether it was a lawful use of force,” Sheaffer said.
Officer Lamont has been with the department since 2008. WFTV found three disciplinary notes on his record. There were two for minor traffic crashes involving his patrol car. The third was after Lamont arrested someone for a misdemeanor, but didn’t see the crime himself so the person had to be let go.
Police sent the incident report (read it) involving Daley’s arrest to prosecutors. They want Daley to be charged with assault and battery on a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct.