Sheriff: Pinellas corrections sergeant arrested for attacking inmate
A Pinellas County Sheriff's Office sergeant was arrested for battery and official misconduct on Monday, the sheriff's office said.
According to PCSO, the incident happened at the Pinellas County Jail on Nov. 19.
Detectives said 41-year-old Terrell Johnson was arrested by St. Pete police and was being held in a temporary housing unit at the Pinellas County Jail on Nov. 18. While being held in the unit, detectives said Johnson began his initial medical screening but became disruptive and uncooperative with the staff.
The deputy assigned to Johnson's unit handcuffed him and placed him in a cell to de-escalate the situation. However, while in the cell, Johnson began to kick the cell door.
"Johnson remained uncooperative when he was in the cell. He was yelling and screaming and shortly before 8 a.m. when he was still in the single cell, handcuffed behind his back, he began kicking the cell door," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Sergeant Knight, 51, went inside the cell, pushed, slapped, punched and grabbed Johnson's hair without provocation or justification, detectives said.
"It doesn't matter who you are or what you did, he didn't deserve to get treated that way. You have a man that is handcuffed behind his back. He's helpless," said Sheriff Gualtieri. "Sgt. Knight had Johnson's head braced against a wall and he was holding his head by his hair. Sgt. Knight pulled Johnson's hair so hard that a clump of hair came out of his head."
It was later discovered, Sergeant Knight's written report and verbal account of what happened showed inconsistencies. A corporal, who also went inside Johnson's cell, recanted his initial statement and admitted Knight was in the wrong and struck Johnson.
An internal affairs investigation was immediately initiated.
After being notified of the investigation, Knight resigned from the PCSO on Nov. 22, the sheriff's office said.
On Nov. 29, Knight was arrested and charged with one count of battery and one count of official misconduct. The sheriff's office hired Sgt. Knight in 1996.