Investigators say BSO Deputy Gerald Wengert beat up a 17-year-old and had a police dog chew on him because Wengert's girlfriend told him to.
The incident in question happened December 1, 2010: 17-year-old Mark Visconti was driving on Stirling Road in Cooper City after school when he and a passenger spotted some friends -- Visconti threw his car into reverse and parked on SW 99th Terrace to pick them up. Unfortunately for him, Jessica Mercer was second in line for a stop sign on that street, and she's big and important because she's dating a policeman.
She got out of the car and berated Visconti for his driving, according to an arrest report, and told him she was calling the police. Visconti got back into his car and drove down the street to Wendy's, where they spent ten minutes eating. Mercer followed them there; she was on the phone with her boyfriend -- Wengert.
Visconti and his friends left the Wendy's; less than half a mile away, Wengert pulled them over. Visconti rolled down his window to give Wengert his license. Instead, according to investigators, "Deputy Wengert approached the driver's side of the car; the deputy was yelling expletives asking Visconti 'What the fuck is wrong with you?' Suddenly Deputy Wengert opened the door, yanked Visconti out of the car, threw him against the car and began aggressively searching him."
Wengert then allegedly punched Visconti, got him in a headlock and dragged him to his police SUV -- where he "released his K-9 partner upon him." Backup arrived from a station across the street; Wengert "had difficulty getting the dog to release."
Eventually, Visconti was taken to the hospital for injuries to his face and legs; that's when investigators say Wengert started covering his own ass. Wengert told a detective Visconti was lying when he said the ordeal had been sparked by an encounter with Mercer; he "denied his girlfriend had anything to do with" it.
Wengert's report also claimed he saw Visconti reverse onto SW 99th Terrace and "almost" hit a car; he neglected to mention that he wasn't actually there and that the car was his girlfriend's. He also said that he saw Visconti enter the Wendy's shopping center but that Visconti fled the scene when he saw Wengert -- which, investigators found, is just not true.
Wengert is charged with official misconduct, falsifying records, and battery. All that Sheriff Al Lamberti could be bothered to say was "It bothers me that we have nearly 6,000 dedicated employees doing the right thing every day and people hear more about the mistakes and misdeeds of a few. But regardless of the effect, we are not going to sweep anything under the rug."
Well, it's a shame you're bothered, sheriff, and maybe it isn't fair to the rest of your employees that sometimes one or a bunch of your deputies get police dogs to chew on high schoolers and lie about beating people up in convenience stores and get caught in prostitution stings and intimidate witnesses and give teenagers brain damage. Maybe it's not everybody. But the gang of backwoods vigilante thugs you've released onto our streets with guns, canines, and license to do whatever they feel like are an absolute embarrassment. "Protect and serve," eh? Not in Broward County.
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