Following an internal investigation, Pinellas County Deputy Wayne Wagner has been fired for using excessive force on Paige Taylor during a traffic stop and falsifying a police report. Wagner’s termination was effective November 18, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a press conference.
In the parking lot of the Mobil gas station in St. Petersburg on March 25, Wagner stopped a vehicle that had the wrong license plate attached. Gage Moore, 25, the driver, switched seats with Taylor, 26, because he was driving on a suspended license.
Moore was arrested for being a habitual offender and placed in the back of Wagner’s cruiser. He then told Taylor the vehicle needed to be impounded and “there was dialogue on how she was going to get home,” according toGualtieri. Taylor asked if the tow truck driver could take her home, and Wagner said no.
He then told her to step out of the vehicle. In the police report, Wagner said that as Taylor “exited the vehicle, she immediately slammed the door and aggressively approached me. Paige then ripped her driver’s license out of my hands, and with her right hand, shoved me.”
Instead, the high-definition gas station surveillance video released last week shows Wagner grabbing Taylor, throwing her to the ground and then pinning her down:
“Deputy Wagner lied and didn’t tell the truth about what happened out there,” Gualtieri said. “He used unnecessary force when he slammed her against the car.”
Taylor, who said she was breaking up with Moore, her boyfriend, when they were stopped in the vehicle, said she went face first when hitting the ground.
“He slammed me to the ground pretty bad and I actually went face first,” Taylor told Bay News 9 in September. “I really don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Especially someone who’s innocent, like myself.”
Based on the video, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office dismissed Taylor’s charge of felony battery of a law enforcement officer. She has no prior record and her father is a federal law enforcement agent.
Wagner was hired by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in 2014. In April, he received a 40-hour suspension for an unauthorized pursuit. Driving without sirens and lights, Wagner reached speeds of 130 mph on U.S. 19.
“The video doesn’t show a clear touch,” Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said in September. “The deputy was a little overaggressive in taking her down and the case didn’t have jury appeal.”
However, Bartlett also said Taylor “clearly had an attitude and should have been charged with obstruction for switching seats,” according to Bay News 9.
When Sandra Bland was stopped and arrested on July 10, 2015, in Prairie View, Texas, by then-state trooper Brian Encinia, she was told she had a bad attitude.
Encinia used excessive force during the traffic stop and then lied about the incident. He was indicted by the Waller County grand jury on a misdemeanor charge of lying in the police report. The 28-year-old Black woman was found hanged in her Waller County jail cell three days after her arrest.
Encinia stopped Bland for failing to signal when changing lanes near her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. She had just interviewed for and accepted a job at the university.Police dashcamvideo shows the confrontation escalated after Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette and exit the car.
In September, Bland’s family reached a $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful death suit against law enforcement. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Waller County Jail, run by the local sheriff, will pay the family.
The county jail will also step up staff training and inmate monitoring, as well as have a nurse or emergency medical technician available for all shifts as part of the settlement, Chicago-based lawyer Cannon Lambert told Reuters in an interview.