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Sergeant stuns inmate after she refuses to pick up shoes (with video)

MANATEE — A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office sergeant at the jail was suspended without pay for a week after he stunned an inmate after she refused to pick up her shoes, according to an internal affairs report released this week.

Sgt. Donald McGowan, who has been employed at the sheriff’s office since 2000, abused his authority with 32-year-old Mia D. Barnes when she showed no apparent physical threat, according to the report.

On Nov. 29, McGowan heard Barnes yelling obscenities at other deputies and responded to the intake lobby, where he told her to pick up her shoes or he would drive-stun her with a Taser by applying it directly to her body.

Barnes, who was arrested for trespassing, told McGowan, “Go ahead and do it,” as she sat on a bench with her arms stretched out to the sides, according to the report.

In security film footage from the lobby, McGowan is shown standing in front of Barnes before going over and applying the stun gun directly to her left shoulder for five seconds. In response, Barnes is seen flailing and falls to the floor, where she manages to kick McGowan in the groin area.

“The application of the ECW (electronic-controlled weapon) caused Inmate Barnes to become combative,” according to the report.

Five deputies can then be seen in the video helping to secure her by dragging her out of the room. McGowan then stuns Barnes two more times. “You have to look at the whole thing,” McGowan told investigators, according to the report.

McGowan said it was not just the shoes, it was that she was being verbally abusive. He stated he thought Barnes was poised to strike, her eyes were narrowed and her teeth were clenched, according to the report. McGowan said she was capable of jumping on him because he was in her way.

Three other deputies at the jail told investigators the use of force was unjustified.

In other instances when inmates refuse to pick up their shoes, they are usually just sent to a cell to calm down, the report said. Inmates would also receive a written reprimand.

Sheriff’s office policy dictates deputies are not supposed to use Tasers unless someone physically resists. In this case, Barnes’ actions did not rise to that level, according to the report.

McGowan’s discipline also includes having 43 hours of vacation time deducted, as well as being retrained on how to use Tasers.

Barnes was charged with trespassing, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting. The battery charge has since been dropped, according to court records.

Barnes has a prior arrest record of charges including domestic battery, burglary and trespassing. Barnes is in jail for driving with a suspended license from a January arrest, according to the jail Web site.