October 6, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Cops. Definitely a different breed. Some are perhaps overly aggressive. Some might be trigger-happy. Others may be offended by flirtatious badge bunnies. Some lie. And sometimes, you have all these traits wrapped up in one: Former Escambia County Sheriff’s deputy Michael Wohlers has been placed on a one-year law enforcement probation after his aggressive, trigger-happy, flirtatious, untruthful incident. Oh yeah, and he’s being sued.
Wohlers had just gotten off-duty. He decided to stop by a local apartment complex and meet up with Stephanie Byron who worked at the apartments. Apparently, Byron had at least one thing Wohlers wanted: a bottle of sweet tea.
The two began playfully bickering over a drink, and Wohlers “pulled out his department-issued dart firing stun gun and shot the victim in the chest,” the CJSTC [Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission] release said.
Though the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, the agency that licenses Florida’s law enforcement officers, found the episode to be “playful,” Bryon has alleged in her lawsuit Wohlers’ actions were anything but playful.
The suit alleges when Wohlers arrived at the apartment complex, he “used his apparent law enforcement authority to intimidate, harass, and threaten plaintiff … about her personal life. Because Wohlers did not like how Plaintiff failed to respond to his show of authority, Wohlers became increasingly aggressive toward employees at the apartment complex’s office, including with Ms. Byron.”
Playful or not, Wohlers discharged his taser instead of returning the sweet tea. This was only the start of Wohlers’ problems. Every taser deployment is recorded by the device. If the department were to check, the device would reveal its use. Knowing he could not hide his tasing activities, Wohler fessed up. Well…sort of.
Documents obtained from the CJSTC revealed:
Wohlers retrieved the device’s spent wires and probes, but he didn’t notify the Sheriff’s Office of the incident. Instead, he told a training officer he had accidentally discharged his stun gun against a pillow.
Maybe it was an accident. Maybe he only meant to scare Bryon. Maybe he was just playing around. After all, it was just horseplay, right?
Wohlers and Bryon exchanged a few text messages after the incident, and apparently after his little “confession” to his training officer. He soon learned that Bryon intended to file a formal complaint against him for the tasing. What to do? What to do? File a report! Document the events!
Wohlers went back to his trainer and admitted to using the stun gun on the victim. He eventually filed a false offense report stating he was performing a safety check on his weapon when he lost his grip and accidentally discharged the device.
Not real bright. After admitting to a fellow officer that he tased Bryon, he went on to file a false report. He certainly couldn’t be honest. He couldn’t admit he was playing around with a deadly weapon. He couldn’t admit he was flirting. Yes, it’s best to claim a safety check.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Wohlers decided he should apologize. In somewhat of a Pinterest fail, Wohlers pretended baked a cake, captioned it, “Sorry I tased you.”
Wohlers “baked a cake and decorated it with one figure firing a (stun gun) at the other figure.”
Yet, he never got a chance to actually deliver the cake.* Maybe he didn’t like the artwork after all.
Byron’s attorney, Alistair McKenzie, clarified Friday that Wohlers sent Byron a text message stating that he baked her a cake and wanted to give it to her. The text message included a photo of a cake with the phrase, “Sorry I Tased You” written on it.
Though he resigned amidst the internal affairs investigation, the Sheriff’s Department found untruthfulness, failure to complete an accurate report, conduct unbecoming of an officer, misuse of weapons, and failing to comply with a direct order during the investigation.
And there you have it. Some cops are truly a different breed. Overly aggressive? Check. Playful bickering over a bottle of sweet tea. Trigger-happy? Check. Taser deployed. Offended by flirtation? Okay, maybe he just doesn’t know how to flirt back. Lies? Check. Untruthful reporting on his own activities. And let’s just go ahead and add the rest: conduct unbecoming, misuse of weapons, and really bad apologies.
*As later revealed, he was too lazy to actually bake a case, so he glommed a picture of one off the internet (yes, this wasn’t the first time someone came up with the idea of a “sorry I tased you” cake) and sent it over as if he had actually made the effort to bake a cake.
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I’m sure criminal charges are right around the corner…
it’s been a year, so I’m not counting on anything criminal coming out of this. In fact, many prosecutors would likely see that he has already resigned and is serving a one-year probation from law enforcement as punishment enough. While citizens don’t usually get that same benefit, cops are, again, a different breed.
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