A Florida deputy is on administrative leave after video showed him trying to stifle the freedom of speech of a Black man he was detaining Saturday on a trespassing allegation. In the 13-second clip posted on social media, the deputy identified as Charles Rhoads by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office can be seen handcuffing 19-year-old Kevin Wygant and telling him he does not have the right to free speech, WPTV reported. "Yes, I do have the freedom of speech," Wygant said in the video.
"Not to us you don't," Rhoads retorted, prompting Wygant to ask: "Oh, I don't have the freedom of speech to you?" At that point, the deputy can be seen pushing Wygant against a wall, and whispering in his ear: “F-----g with me, I'm gonna show you what f-----g freedom of speech is.”
Bystanders responded with shock, saying “whoa, whoa, whoa” and “what are you doing, bro?” Rhoads appeared to then try to have them cleared from the scene, but the video cut off before he could finish the sentence “get them the f--k.”
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in a social media post that he requested an internal affairs investigation into the deputy. “I DO NOT condone this behavior and take this matter very seriously,” Bradshaw said in a post that the sheriff’s office posted to Facebook.
In the post, authorities also claimed the incident started when two people started “creating a disturbance” and “making demands to talk to an employee” at a restaurant in the Village of Wellington in central Palm Beach County. “After creating a disturbance the manager asked the individuals to leave. Refusing to leave the manager called 911,” the sheriff’s office said. “When our deputy arrived the individuals were given lawful commands to vacate the property resulting in their arrests. One individual was arrested for Trespass after Warning, disorderly intoxication, resisting without violence and obstruction, the second individual was arrested for Trespass after warning.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, however, said Wygant was "only trying to help" after he witnessed a fight. “This is UNACCEPTABLE behavior!!” the attorney tweeted Sunday.
Click here to support organizations that are fighting every day for racial justice.
Achieving racial justice requires change at every political level. Ready to hand President Donald Trump—and every Republican—a humiliating defeat? Sign up with Vote Forward to write personalized letters to infrequent, but Democratic-leaning, voters in swing states. Help us wash Trump out of office with a big blue wave of record-breaking turnout.