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November 25, 2016
(Photo courtesy Broward Sheriff's Office)
Broward sheriff's K-9 Deputy Jerry Wengert returned to duty this week after a 15-month paid suspension.
Being the subject of repeated claims of police brutality, Broward sheriff's K-9 deputy, Jerry Wengert, is back on the street after spending half of the past four years suspended.
Since becoming a deputy in 2004, Deputy Jerry Wengert has drawn a lot of media attention.
After just 2 years on the force, he was the subject of 2 internal affairs investigations of him.
He was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint by his own agency in 2012.
Since 2013, he has been named as a defendant in four civil lawsuits that, according to the Sun Sentinel, depict him as a quick-fisted deputy with a "sadistic" bent for letting his dog maul suspects after they've surrendered.
Deputy Wengert has been cleared in a total of nine internal affairs investigations and found not guilty by a jury of the criminal complaint.
The four lawsuits, including a wrongful death suit for a fatal shooting while on duty, are pending in federal court.
He regained his badge this week after spending 15 months suspended, with pay. His annual salary is $72,735.
Placed on suspension in June 2015 while state prosecutors and BSO internal affairs investigated the arrest of an intoxicated Dania Beach man whose mug shot showed his face lopsided from swelling, one eye blackened and sealed shut.
According to the Sun Sentinel, prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges and closed their investigation in July. Wengert, fellow deputies and witnesses gave differing accounts about who swung first, and the beaten man could not remember the altercation, so a conviction was unlikely, Broward Assistant State Attorney David Schulson wrote in a July 5 memo.
Sheriff's officials called Wengert into headquarters Tuesday and advised him that he had been cleared by the department's office of internal affairs and could return to full duty.
Deputy Wengert hasn't yet regained his K-9 assignment but hopes to soon. He has been assigned to road patrol in Dania Beach. His attorney said the deputy will take some retraining classes.
State prosecutors continue to investigate Wengert in two unrelated cases.
In Jan. 2014 accusations were made that Wengert and other deputies antagonized a police dog into attacking two men suspected of spray-painting graffiti on freight cars after they surrendered.
And In November 2014, a man suspected of petty theft claims Wengert had his dog tear into him after he surrendered.
Civil lawsuits are pending in both incidents.
Kevin Buckler, 21
Cooper City gas station
Lawsuit filed Sept. 24, 2013
Buckler spent two days hospitalized with a fractured face and eyes swollen shut after Wengert arrested him. The lawsuit claims Wengert pummeled Buckler after taunting him at the gas station and then pulling him over less than a mile away for blaring “excessively loud music.” Wengert said Buckler was combative, blew smoke in his face, threw his cigarette at him, failed to comply with orders and fought him.
Humerto Pellegrino, 38, and Pedro Claveria, 37
Lawsuit filed March 13, 2015
Behind a loading dock with train tracks, four men spray-painted graffiti on freight cars as police came upon them. The men claimed Wengert and another deputy “antagonized” a police dog to attack even after they had surrendered. According to the lawsuit, the men were taken by ambulance to an emergency room with open wounds. The Broward State Attorney is investigating.
Steven Jerold Thompson, 26
Wrongful death lawsuit filed July 5, 2016
Status: Tentative trial date set Sept. 18, 2017
Wengert faces a wrongful death lawsuit for the on-duty killing of Thompson. Wengert said he was forced to shoot Thompson after Thompson shot at him. The lawsuit maintains that Thompson was unarmed and did not fit the description of iPhone robbery suspects the deputies were searching for. He was shot nine times.
A Broward County grand jury ruled the shooting was a justified use of lethal force.
Reginald Chatman, 34.
Lawsuit filed Dec. 9, 2014
After leaving a CVS store, Chatman and a friend were stopped on suspicion of petty theft at a nearby gas station. Chatman thought a deputy was reaching for his Taser and ran away. After searching for nearly an hour, Wengert and his K9 found Chatman hiding under a bush. “Chatman cowered on the ground under a shallow bush and announced his surrender,” the lawsuit claims.
Wengert’s dog “latched onto Chatman’s ankle and viciously tore at him for 15 to 20 minutes,” the suit alleges. Chatman required numerous stitches and spent a month in the jail infirmary, according to the lawsuit.
The Broward State Attorney is investigating.
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