A now-former corrections deputy with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office is accused of using excessive force on an inmate, and it was caught on camera.
Keefe Roman, 39, faces a charge of battery on an inmate following his arrest on a warrant from the State Attorney's Office.
The sheriff's office said the incident started as a verbal exchange between the inmate and Roman on Dec. 10, 2020.
According to the sheriff's office, Roman described the inmate as being disrespectful to him, so he put the inmate in timeout. He made him sit on a bench inside a room. Roman remained in the doorway and continued to "engage with the inmate," the sheriff's office said.
Investigators said the verbal dispute continued when Roman sprayed the inmate with pepper spray. Roman said he did it "to avoid any act of potential violence from occurring." But prior to the first blast of pepper spray, the sheriff's office said the inmate remained seated with his hands in his lap and appeared to make no aggressive moves toward the deputy.
The sheriff's office said Roman sprayed the inmate again with pepper spray, thinking the first dose didn't have any effect. Roman sprayed the inmate a third time. After that, Roman secured the inmate who had to be taken to the medical unit for treatment.
Deputies arrested Roman on Monday. He left jail on bond that night.
Roman had been on administrative leave since mid-December until Sheriff Eric Flowers fired him on Tuesday.
“Our deputies are tasked with the responsibility of using force in a judicious manner. I expect my team to use force, when necessary, in a manner consistent with our policies, the law, and the standard of reasonableness. When that is done, I will support their actions. However, that was not the case here. This now former employee did not meet the high standards of the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.”
Roman had been with the sheriff's office since September. He worked as a correctional officer with another agency prior to his hiring in Indian River County.