PALMETTO — The Palmetto police officer who was charged last month with pointing a Taser and an AR-15 rifle at his wife and children has had his felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
Last month, Palmetto police officer David J. Filipiak was arrested by Manatee sheriff’s deputies and charged with aggravated domestic assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony.
According to court documents, Filipiak’s wife accused him of pointing his police-issued Taser and his privately-owned AR-15 rifle at her and the two children she has from a previous relationship. Filipiak’s wife told investigators he would point the rifle at her or the children and say, “I could kill you or anyone at any time and get away with it.” Other documents allege he pointed the Taser’s integral red laser at the children, placing the red dot on the children’s chests.
Earlier this month, Filipiak’s felony charges were reduced to improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon, a first-degree misdemeanor, more commonly known as “brandishing” a weapon. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine, as opposed to the five years imprisonment and $5,000 fine he faced for the felony charges. The prosecutor assigned to the case, Assistant State Attorney Bruce M. Lee, said after conducting interviews of Filipiak’s family, law enforcement and others involved in the case, he did not believe the facts supported the more serious charge, which required the victims to believe there was a “credible threat to do violence.”
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“Based upon my review of the evidence and the circumstances, I didn’t feel it met that standard of proof,” he said. Filipiak did not receive any preferential treatment because he is a police officer, Lee said. “Absolutely not,” he said. “The facts will come out at trial, if it goes that far. Based upon the circumstances, we could not establish a well-found fear that violence was going to take place.” Bradenton defense attorney Charles M. Britt, III said normally the charges would be reduced at a later date.
“I would expect it to remain a serious aggravated assault charge,” Britt said. “Maybe way down the road, after a whole lot of work, it may be reduced.”
Filipiak, 45, was hired by the Palmetto Police Department in October 2000, after previously working at the Bradenton Police Department as a dispatcher.
He has amassed 14 disciplinary incidents at the Palmetto Police Department, going back to his date of hire, including suspensions, letters of reprimand, letters of counseling, suspensions from working off-duty jobs and an external investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Some of the disciplinary incidents include the misuse of a Taser and a pistol, allowing an unlicensed driver to drive home, failing to show up for an off-duty job, driving so fast to an accident as to “create a hazard to the general public as well as the officers involved,” neglect of duty, several conduct unbecoming incidents, and using rude, offensive or profane language with the public. Since his arrest, Filipiak was relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave by the Palmetto Police Department, pending the disposition of his criminal charges and the conclusion of an internal investigation by his department.