Detention deputy accused of beating teen inmate

Last year, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office received widespread criticism after a series of people complained they were abused while at the jail, including a wheelchair-bound man who was dumped on the floor by a deputy.

On Wednesday, a jailer was accused of beating a teenage inmate who spat on him. By the end of the day, he had been suspended, arrested and the sheriff was praising the deputy who turned him in.

“I am extremely disappointed in the actions of the deputy who assaulted this inmate. However, I am proud of the other deputy who saw the incident, knew it was wrong and brought it to our attention,” Sheriff David Gee said.

Deputy Joshua Spencer, 29, is charged with misdemeanor battery on a juvenile inmate and official misconduct, a felony. His arrest report says the latter charge came because he lied when filing a report on the incident.

The incident occurred at the Falkenburg Road Jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

Spencer was hired as a detention deputy in August 2005 and has been suspended without pay pending termination, the sheriff’s office said. Spencer declined comment after he was released from jail Thursday evening after posting $2,500 bond.

Sheriff David Gee ordered a criminal investigation after a deputy who witnessed the incident alerted supervisors that same day. The teenager received a 1-inch cut to the back of his head and did not require hospitalization.

The inmate, Sean Walker, 16, was being held in a confinement cell in Falkenburg Road Jail because of his age. He was arrested March 12 on a robbery charge, online jail records show.

The teen’s father, John Walker, visited the teen Thursday night. Walker said his son told him Spencer frequently harassed him because of his small size and high-pitched voice.

According to booking records, Spencer is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 265 pounds; Walker is 5 feet, 8 inches and 150 pounds.

“Sean was just telling me that some of the officers, they’re not so nice,” Walker said. “He was just tired of them not being nice.”

When deputies approached Walker’s cell door about 12:40 a.m. Wednesday to discuss a dispute over items in his cell, Walker spat on them through a food tray slot, the sheriff’s office said.

Spencer opened the cell door and charged the inmate, knocking him to the floor, face down, investigators say. Spencer then hit him three to five times with his fist on the back of the head, detectives say. Other deputies restrained Spencer and sought medical aid for him. Jail medical staff treated the laceration.

Col. Jim Previtera, the director of the county jail’s system, said investigators responded quickly.

“There’s no tolerance for this type of behavior at all,” Previtera said. “I would hope that the manner and speed in which we handled this speaks for itself.”

John Walker said his son was a good kid and told him Thursday to “do all the right things until you go to court.”

“He’s just a boy that has problems,” he said. “He got mixed up with the wrong people who influenced him in the wrong way.”

The sheriff’s office received widespread criticism last year after a videotape surfaced showing a deputy dumping a wheelchair-bound inmate onto the floor. The video went viral on the Internet and prompted a public outcry. Several former and current inmates went public with allegations of abuse.

An independent commission reviewed the jail system’s policies, issuing a report stating the wheelchair dumping was an aberration but that the jail system was in need of some improvement.

In addition to the criminal charges against Spencer, an administrative investigation is under way regarding the actions of the other deputies involved in Wednesday’s incident.


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