Locals react to arrest of Springfield Police Officer
Tuesday, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford and Springfield Police officials announced the
of Officer Ronnie Nelson, after an internal review showed Nelson improperly used a taser and excessive force during a casual encounter with a local black man, Solomon Smith.
“A use of an electronic control device or a taser was unwarranted. It was just improper,” said Springfield Police Chief Barry Roberts.
Last week Springfield Police and other local law enforcement agencies met with several black community groups to stand up against racism and police brutality in our area. To some, Nelson’s arrest is proof that law-enforcement is keeping their word.
“They held their own guys accountable, and they moved it up the chain,” said Northwest Florida Minority Business Chamber of Commerce Tony Bostick. “That shows that we have honorable guys that work in law enforcement here.”
However, some don’t think it’s enough. Dozens of protesters lined Business 98 near the spot where Smith, also known as Sunny D, was taken down by officers. They demanded the arrest of the other two officers involved. Locals say the officer should have recognized Sunny D has special needs.
“Sunny D is autistic,” said Springfield Resident Robert Stewart. “I have two autistic children, so Sunny D holds a very special place with me. He [Sunny D] cried on my shoulder today and told me I wake up from nightmares every night and playing in my head that’s not OK.”
Springfield Police officials say one of the officers was called for backup and was unaware of the situation before he arrived. The other officer, who was a new recruit, didn’t use excessive force, which is why neither officer has been charged.
Officials say Nelson is on unpaid administrative leave and the investigation is still ongoing.
Chief Roberts and local community leaders also wanted to clear up rumors about the department offering Smith a job at a local business to “keep him quiet” about the incident. Chief Roberts, along with Bostick, and Janice Lucas of the LEAD Coalition, said the rumors were untrue.
According to Bostick, Smith approached Lucas about a job, and she called a local business who agreed to set up an interview for Smith. Chief Roberts said Smith expressed concerns about the distance between his home and the local business. Roberts then gave Smith his business card and told Smith to call him if he needs help getting to his interview at the local business.