Diego Gonzalez, a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy with the agency since 2015, was suspended without pay for a week and a half–60 hours–and required to write a letter of apology to a Flagler Beach police officer. The discipline resulted from an internal investigation of an April incident when an intoxicated Gonzalez became “verbally abusive” toward the officer for not extending him special courtesy as a “brother” in uniform.
The afternoon April 25 Flagler Beach police officers were dispatched to Palmetto Ave regarding a possible assault and battery case. They met with Gonzalez, who told them a resident on the avenue had “yelled and cussed at him while he was traveling in the canal behind the resident’s home,” according to a Flagler Beach police report, flipping him off and spraying him and his family with water. Gonzalez, who “appeared intoxicated during his encounter,” according to the report, was not initially interested in pressing charges.
But officer Gaetano Cozzone, who had responded to the call, had determined that Gonzalez “was the instigator and responsible for all the events” in that encounter. That was around 3 p.m.
Not much later officers were again called there on a noise complaint, this time by the resident who’d allegedly flipped off Gonzalez. The resident complained that Gonzalez was going up and down the canal, “blaring music and antagonizing him,” a report states. (Gonzalez was with a woman and two children.) There were repeated such encounters. Neighbors told police they’d witnessed the encounters. The resident told the officer he was aware Gonzalez was an off duty deputy and “he was shocked that he would conduct himself in such a manner. He then stated that if the behavior persisted that he would be making a formal complaint to The Sheriff’s Office.”
After 7 p.m., Gonzalez contacted Cozzone, who’d gone off duty and was home, asking for someone to come out to take down a report. Cozzone told him he needed to call the sheriff’s dispatch center. “Gonzalez demanded that he (the off duty officer) provide him with an on duty officer’s number so he could speak directly to someone working,” a Flagler Beach police report states. Gonzalez was told he’d not be given that information.
Gonzalez called the dispatch center around 7:45 p.m. Because of the number of calls that had already been placed, Gonzalez’s “unknown” intoxication level and the delay between the initial call and his second call, the responding officer–Joseph McCraney–was instructed to have a sheriff’s supervisor with him in his encounter with Gonzalez. Two sheriff’s deputies, including the supervisor, responded, as did McCcarney, who explained to Gonzalez that a report would not be taken. The reasons were that the time that had passed since the incident and the degree of Gozalez’s intoxication. If he wished, Gonzalez was told, he could file one with the State Attorney’s Office.
“Gonzalez made a comment about being brothers (fellow law enforcement officers) trying to persuade this officer to continue with allowing him to file a report and charges on the resident involved,” the officer reported. “Commander [Jon] Welker stepped in to speak with Mr. Gonzalez, who initially spoke calmly with him. Mr. Gonzalez then became upset with everyone on scene, used several expletives and said we were excused. I attempted one last time to inform Mr. Gonzalez that once he sobered up, if he still wished to pursue charges to stop by the police department, but Mr. Gonzalez did not want to hear it and told this officer he was done.”
The sheriff’s internal investigation, completed in June but disclosed only last week, reveals that Gonzales was disrespectful toward Welker to told McCraney, using an expletive, that he could leave because “he was useless and could not believe he was treating a brother officer this way.” The exchange was captured on Welker’s body cam, according to the internal investigation.
Welker later told McCraney that he would document the issue and handle it internally. But Gonzalez called McCraney again at 10:05 p.m., then called the dispatch center at nearly 1 a.m., asking to speak with McCraney. The Flagler Beach officer declined to do so, as instructed earlier.
Two days later Flagler Beach Police Captain Lance Blanchette ordered an investigation into the case, as Gonzalez was still pressing for charges against the resident–only to soon change his mind and drop the matter.
Gonzalez did not necessarily lose time on the job: the disciplinary measure allowed for his 60 hours’ lost pay to be deducted from accumulated leave time. Gonzalez had been named the September 2017 Employee of the Month.