Lee Deputy seizes cell phone after family claims excessive force, records incident

Deputy takes cell phone that recorded fight
Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 14, 2016

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A Four in your Corner investigation is focusing on an issue that's hot across the country right now. If you record law enforcement officers on your phone do they have the right to seize the video?

Lee County Sheriff's deputies did that this week, taking a man's cell phone after his friends scuffled with them. Deputies say the video will prove they were the victims.

Two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement does not have the right to search a person’s cell phone without a warrant.

This past Monday, Jasmine Aguilera's family was torn apart.

Workers with the Department of Children and Families, along with a Lee County deputy, arrived at her Fort Myers home to take away her two children.

Aguilar tells us, "It's hard for me to sleep, it's hard for me to eat. I can't even be in this house by myself."

Things soon got heated. According to the Sheriff's arrest report, family members Roberto Rodriguez and Waldemar Suarez threatened the officer.

The deputy then called for backup. When more officers arrived, both men were placed on the ground and handcuffed.

The arrest report says Suarez then kicked the deputy in the head.
However, Aguilera and her family, claim the deputy is the one who punched first.

Aguilar says, "He just hit him and the officer grabbed me and turned me so I won't see anymore."

Meanwhile, a family friend was recording the brawl on his cell phone.

Alex Martinez believes deputies continued to assault Suarez after putting him in the patrol car.

He tells us, "The officer, I think it was Torres, was on top of Waldemar in the car and it looked like he was hitting him ‘cause I saw his hand go up."

Martinez wasn't involved in the fight but says deputies grabbed his phone and refused to give it back.

He says the deputy, “Came up to me, he saw me recording and he smacked the phone out my hand and when I picked my phone up my whole screen was cracked."

Now, three days after the incident, Martinez is demanding to know why a Lee County detective won't return his phone.

He called Lee County Sheriff’s Detective Breton and placed the call on speaker phone.

We heard her tell Martinez:

"We can take your phone as evidence. The video is evidence that a felony took place (Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer). In order to get your phone back I'm going to have to serve a search warrant on it, or if you give me consent you'll have to meet me and you'll have to sign a piece of paper just for me to get that video and so you can get your phone back."

Martinez says, "It's my right to record what's going on and I had nothing to do with it."

We reached out to the Lee County Sheriff's Office today but haven't heard back.