Video of man’s arrest, citizen concern prompt internal investigation of Sarasota cops

A man’s arrest after police say he tried to ingest drugs and resisted officers has raised concern and prompted an investigation after video of the incident was posted on social media.

Sarasota Police opened an internal investigation into the Sunday arrest, citing concerns from the community in a news release. The department was made aware of the video Monday.

The video reportedly shows the arrest of 40-year-old Govinda Howell, of Sarasota, who police say tried to eat drugs during a traffic stop and resisted officers during his arrest.

A crowd gathered during the incident. At least one person filmed it. In the video, several officers can be seen on the ground holding Howell down. Several outlets reported a person could be heard in the video yelling Howell is handicapped.

Family told Spectrum Bay News 9 that Howell was not able to comply to officers’ commands because he was not aware of what was going on and was scared.

WFLA News Channel 8 reported that family members said Howell has bipolar disorder and was beaten by officers for no reason.

Jason Bradley, who reportedly witnessed the arrest, told FOX 13 some of the officers were “heavy-handed.”

“I feel that the officers were trying to get him under control, but a few of them were not doing the right thing as they were in there,” Bradley told FOX 13.

“We can stop this by demanding community oversight of the police, demanding real accountability and community control because that’s what we need,” Bryan Ellis, a local activist, told WFLA.

Police told ABC Action News they were not aware if Howell is handicapped and would not be able to discuss it.

According to police, officers initiated a traffic stop after a vehicle stopped in the center of the road on 23rd Street to pick up two people. Once the car began moving, it drove the wrong way down the street and ran a stop sign.

When the vehicle stopped, officers saw Howell in the back seat turn around and look at them and start reaching under the seat in front of him. Officers told him to stop and show his hands, but they said Howell ignored them and continued reaching under the seat, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Police opened the vehicle door and Howell got out but was yelling at officers and appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the affidavit.

Howell “became extremely agitated, exhibiting signs of excited delirium,” while continuing to yell and resisting officers’ efforts to get his hands behind his back, the affidavit stated.

During the incident, police said they saw Howell put what they suspected were drugs in his mouth and chew them. Police were not able to recover the suspected drugs.

Howell was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for treatment.

He was arrested on charges of resisting an officer without violence.

The driver of the vehicle was cited for failure to designate a lane.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Sarasota Police Sergeant Dwayne Shellhammer at 941-954-7027.

Sara Nealeigh covers what’s happening in the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She previously covered breaking news for the Herald after moving to Florida from Ohio in 2016.