Report: Deputy fired after local bar incident

bburger@bradenton.comApril 3, 2010 

MANATEE — A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was fired Friday after he reportedly grabbed a woman at a bar by the neck and pushed her against the bar, according to an internal affairs report.

Deputy Reginald Belvin, who has worked at the sheriff’s office for 13 years, was off duty and had consumed about four beers when he entered In Cahoots Bar, 5917 Manatee Ave. W., on Dec. 10, according to the report.

The woman told investigators she was at the bar getting a drink when she turned around and was poked in the neck. She said she tried to push Belvin away, but he grabbed her around the neck and pushed her backward into the bar, the report said.

Belvin intends to appeal his termination, his wife, Kristina Belvin, told the Herald by phone Friday night.

“Deputy Belvin emphatically denied touching (the woman) anywhere around her throat or grabbing her around the neck and pushing her,” the report states. “Deputy Belvin said the extent of his contact with (the woman) was tapping her on the shoulder blade.”

“I just wanted to get her attention and let her know that we were there and not to cause any problems,” Belvin told investigators in an interview.

Investigators noted Belvin’s account of the incident was much different compared to other witnesses interviewed. According to different accounts, the woman screamed for help and the bartender jumped the bar, the report said. Other patrons and the bartender then escorted Belvin out of the bar. Someone outside said they were going to contact the sheriff’s office, the report said. Belvin responded, “I’m a freaking cop!,” according to the report.

The woman tried to report the incident, but was told she needed to come into the sheriff’s office in person the following morning to file a report. She changed her mind because Belvin was a deputy, according to the internal affairs report.

The bar owner later convinced her to report the incident and a report was made Jan. 11, the report said. Belvin and the woman were friends at one point, but have had conflicts in the past, according to the report. Belvin’s friends immediately left the bar when they noticed the woman; he chose to confront her, according to the report.

“He should have exercised better sagacity and left the establishment. The dispute over whether Deputy Belvin pushed, poked, choked, or simply tapped (the woman) on the shoulder is not the central focus of the investigation. ... Deputy Belvin did act inappropriately by using poor discretion in this matter,” the finding states. Belvin has five days per sheriff’s office policy to send a letter of appeal in writing, according to authorities. A career service appeal board will hear his case and uphold the termination or give him a lesser form of disciplinary action.

The State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case for a possible criminal charge of battery against Belvin.

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