This story has been updated with comments from the gym owner.
BRANDON A Tampa man was arrested on Monday and faces one charge of child abuse after he hit an 11-year-old boy repeatedly with a PVC pipe inside of a gym, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies say that around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, Michael J. Hernandez, 35, was inside Phase 5 Fitness at 202 S. Moon Ave in Brandon.
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While there, Hernandez intentionally inflicted physical injury on an 11-year-old boy by repeatedly striking him on the buttocks, legs and lower back using a PVC pipe, according to deputies.
The boy suffered multiple bruises.
During the investigation, detectives learned that Hernandez would punish the boy by making him hold a weighted bar at the gym. Then, if the boy lowered the bar, Hernandez would repeatedly hit him with the PVC pipe. It is not known how the boy and Hernandez know each other.
Hernandez was arrested at his home in Tampa on Monday night and booked into Hillsborough County Jail on one charge of child abuse. He was released the next day after posting $2,000 bail.
The owner of Phase 5 Fitness, Eric Auciello, says the child was not a client of the gym and that the incident occurred after hours.
The gym’s policy, Auciello says, does not allow children in the training area.
“For the past 10 years Phase 5 Fitness has proudly worked with law enforcement, military-service members and first responders,” Auciello said. “Safety and quality instruction is the hallmark of our gym and the actions of Mr. Hernandez stand in direct opposition to our beliefs. He is no longer affiliated with our facility in any way. As a father of two young girls I find the alleged acts perpetrated by Mr. Hernandez to be abhorrent.”