Florida Sheriff's Deputy Beat Handcuffed Inmate, Lied About It: Feds

04/14/2015 08:15 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2015

April 14 (Reuters) - A Florida law-enforcement officer has been indicted on federal charges of using excessive force in beating a handcuffed inmate and lying about it, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

A federal grand jury indicted William Wheeler, a Palm Beach County Sheriff's corrections deputy, in the Oct. 9, 2013, incident at the Palm Beach County Detention Center, federal authorities said in a statement.

The inmate, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, had been escorted by Wheeler to a medical area of the facility in Belle Glade, Florida. When the inmate, identified only as J.S., resisted a nurse's attempt to read his medical bracelet, he was attacked by Wheeler, according to federal authorities.

"Wheeler then placed his hands around the inmate's neck, struck the inmate's head against the wall and pulled the inmate to the floor," federal officials said in the statement.

"The defendant then struck the inmate in the face with his knee."

Wheeler prepared an incident report regarding the use of force, and when later questioned, claimed to have been physically assaulted by the inmate.

The incident was captured by a security camera and the video showed Wheeler's claims to be unsubstantiated, authorities said.

If convicted, Wheeler faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

The statement did not mention the inmate's race. Wheeler's indictment follows a series of deaths during police encounters across the United States, including the shooting of unarmed black men by white officers, that have led to protests against police brutality and racism. (Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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