Fla. officer who fled traffic stop after exchange with deputy formally charged

Fla. officer who fled traffic stop after exchange with deputy formally charged

A Florida police officer is facing criminal charges after an incident in early June when he fled from a traffic stop initiated by a Seminole County sheriff’s deputy. The entire encounter was captured on the deputy’s body camera video, showing the Orlando officer berating the deputy and then driving away in his agency-issued vehicle. The charges against the officer include a felony count of fleeing law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer without violence. The case has sparked debate about abuse of power and damaging community relations between police and the public.

Background on the Incident

On June 9th, 2023, Seminole County Sheriff’s Deputy pulled over Orlando Police Officer Alexander Shaouni for speeding nearly double the 45mph speed limit along Florida Avenue near Oviedo. Shaouni was driving an agency-issued cruiser but did not have his emergency lights or siren activated. After stopping Shaouni, the deputy approached the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. The entire encounter was captured on the deputy’s body camera video.

Details of the Traffic Stop

The video shows Shaouni quickly becoming irritated that he was pulled over by the deputy while on his way to start his shift at the Orlando Police Department. Shaouni can be heard berating the deputy, asking “What does it look like I am dressed for?” when questioned about his excessive speed. The deputy demanded Shaouni’s license, to which Shaouni refused and proceeded to drive away from the traffic stop, fleeing the scene.

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Officer’s Reaction and Comments during Stop

During the brief traffic stop, Shaouni criticized the deputy for pulling over a fellow law enforcement officer. Shaouni seemed incensed that he would be subjected to a traffic stop while in uniform and driving an agency vehicle to work. The video captured him admonishing the deputy and refusing to provide his driver’s license when commanded.

Officer Driving Away from Stop

Despite the lawful orders from the Seminole County deputy, Shaouni chose to argue about the justifications for the stop and then drove away from the traffic stop suddenly while the deputy was mid-sentence. Shaouni proceeded to flee the scene after expressly refusing to comply with the deputy’s directives.

Charges Filed Against Officer

In the aftermath of the June traffic stop, the 18th Circuit State Attorney’s Office in Seminole County filed formal charges against Shaouni on July 6th, 2023. The charges include a 3rd degree felony count of fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement and a 1st degree misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer without violence. The charges are based on Shaouni’s clear violations of lawful police orders and blatant lack of cooperation and compliance during the encounter.

Officer’s Employment Status

Shaouni has been employed as an officer with the Orlando Police Department. After the traffic stop incident, he was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. The current status of his employment remains undetermined as the criminal charges proceed through the justice system. It is likely he will remain suspended or be terminated based on his conduct during the traffic stop.

Reaction by Law Enforcement

The actions of Shaouni during the traffic stop have been widely criticized and condemned by law enforcement professionals and agencies. Fleeing from lawful police orders and resisting an officer’s directives undermine the authority of law enforcement and norms of compliance that officers rely on to conduct their duties safely and effectively. Many have called for Shaouni to be held accountable through prosecution and internal discipline.

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Impact on Community Relations

Within the community, the incident has further strained relations between police and citizens. It has reinforced arguments that some officers feel emboldened to act above the law, damaging public trust in equal enforcement. Minority communities in particular feel officers are not held accountable for abuses of power and misconduct. This incident highlights the need for improved training and accountability to build legitimacy.

Legality of Fleeing Traffic Stop

It is well established in Florida and federal law that drivers are legally required to comply with lawful police orders during a traffic stop. Fleeing a stop constitutes criminal conduct, including felony charges for evading police. Shaouni blatantly disregarded these laws in refusing to cooperate and then driving away, despite being issued valid orders by the deputy.

Precedents in Similar Cases

There is extensive precedent in Florida and nationally that officers who refuse to comply with orders from other law enforcement can face criminal charges, including felony counts based on undermining police authority. Multiple cases exist where officers have similarly fled from traffic stops initiated by deputies or officers from another jurisdiction.

Arguments in Officer’s Defense

Shaouni could potentially argue he felt unsafe during the stop or was not thinking clearly after working a long shift. However, the video evidence directly contradicts any claim he was in fear or confused. Shaouni clearly understood the orders given but brazenly chose to disobey them believing he was above the law. Any defense centered on ignorance or lack of criminal intent would be very difficult to prove.

Potential Penalties if Convicted

The felony charge for fleeing law enforcement carries up to 5 years in prison under Florida law. The misdemeanor charge has a maximum 1 year sentence. Shaouni could face fines, probation, and restitution as well. His law enforcement career would certainly be terminated if convicted of these criminal charges related to abusing his authority.

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Broader Implications

This incident highlights issues surrounding abuse of power by police and damages community trust. It supports the need for strong accountability and training for officers to treat all citizens equally and not act above the law. If proven true, Shaouni’s actions have harmed law enforcement legitimacy and reinforced negative perceptions. Prosecuting this misconduct is important to maintaining public confidence in policing under the law.

Conclusion

The alleged actions of Officer Shaouni in fleeing a lawful traffic stop represent a serious breach of ethics and abuse of authority within policing. If the charges are proven true, Shaouni violated his obligation to uphold the law and undermined the public trust. This misconduct must be met with clear accountability through both criminal prosecution and employment actions in order to affirm the integrity of the badge and commitment to policing within constitutional bounds. Though rare, these incidents severely damage relations between police and communities when not fully addressed. Moving forward, reinforced training and culture change centered on de-escalation, bias-proofing, and accountability will ultimately strengthen law enforcement legitimacy and public confidence.

FAQs

What are the exact charges the officer is facing?

The officer was charged with one felony count of fleeing and eluding law enforcement and one misdemeanor count of resisting an officer without violence.

What was the officer’s reaction when pulled over by the deputy?

The body cam video showed the officer become immediately irritated about being pulled over and he proceeded to criticize and argue with the deputy about the justification for the stop.

On what grounds could the officer legally be pulled over by the deputy?

The deputy initiated the traffic stop because the officer was clocked driving approximately 80 mph in 45 mph zone without lights or siren activated in his agency vehicle.

How did the officer flee the traffic stop scene?

After berating the deputy and refusing to provide his license when ordered, the officer got back into his cruiser and drove away while the deputy was mid-sentence demanding compliance.

What precedents exist for charging officers who flee from lawful traffic stops?

There have been numerous cases in Florida and elsewhere of officers being charged criminally, including felony counts, for unlawfully fleeing from traffic stops conducted by deputies or officers from another jurisdiction.

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