SARASOTA (WWSB) - Three teens who were among a group of four that attacked an off-duty police officer in Payne Park in Sarasota on February 7th have been arrested.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested the day following the attack and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer. Two other boys, a 16-year-old and 15-year-old, were taken into custody Tuesday morning on the same charges.
Detectives say initially they believed there were five suspects, but after multiple interviews, now believe there were four suspects. The search for the fourth suspect is ongoing.
The Sarasota Police Officer was attacked on February 7th while jogging - off duty - at Payne Park on Adams Lane just after noon. He noticed a homeless man being harassed, pushed and hit by group high school-aged teenagers.
According to the warrant, the unidentified officer heard the teens taunting the homeless man, who kept saying “just leave me alone,” before the homeless man was pushed in the chest, knocking him over.
The off-duty officer approached the teens, telling them to “knock it off” and “that’s enough.” That’s when the teens turned to him and said, “shut your mouth and get the f*** out of here” and “what the f*** are you going to do.” One of the teens said, “Yeah, shut your mouth you fat police officer cop.” That’s when the off-duty officer identified himself as a police officer, saying, “That’s right. That’s exactly what I am.”
The teenagers stopped harassing the homeless individual and turned their aggression on the off-duty officer. One punched him in the back of the head and when he turned to face his attacker, he was again struck from behind. The officer stayed on his feet and continued to circle to keep his attackers in front of him, but kept getting hit from behind. He told detectives he was punched in the face at least three times during the assault, which lasted between 1-2 minutes.
Towards the end, the officer told the teens, “I know who every one of you are.” That’s when they fled the park and the officer went to the police station.
At the station, a witness was able to help police identify a 16-year-old boy police say was involved in the attack. Around 7:30pm on the day of the attack, the officer was shown a lineup and he identified the teen as one who had punched him in the face. It was the same one that called him a “fat police officer cop.”
The teen was arrested early in the morning the day following the attack and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
The officer suffered minor injuries and Sarasota Police say both he and the homeless man are doing well.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call 941-954-7062.