By Frank Fernandez
A Daytona Beach police officer has resigned following an incident in which his body camera did not record an entire confrontation, which included another officer sticking a flashlight into a woman’s mouth, a report states.
Officer Justin Ranum resigned July 23 while under investigation for the incomplete body camera video. And according to a report, Officer Matthew Booth was fired Jan. 8, partly because he stuck a metal flashlight in a woman’s mouth to keep it open.
What Booth described as “the flashlight technique” is not an approved tactic by the Daytona Beach Police Department, according to a report finding that Booth violated department directives. The report also found that Booth violated directives when he stuck his fingers in Christine Chippewa’s mouth to try and retrieve drugs he believed she had.
Police Chief Mike Chitwood said Ranum’s body camera was sent to Taser to check why it did not record the entire encounter and Ranum was given another body camera. Then Chitwood said there was a second incident in which Ranum’s body camera was not running.
The officer resigned before the camera audit was completed. But the audit came back that the camera did not film the entire arrest because it was turned off manually, a policy violation, Chitwood said.
“If you follow the policy, we have no problems whatsoever,” Chitwood said. “It’s when officers deviate from the policy that we have a problem. And the policy is there to protect the officer and protect the community. It’s really simple. Nobody likes change, but change is here.”
It was not the first time Ranum had been in trouble. In December 2010, Ranum and another officer were fired after they were acquitted of criminal mischief charges. The two were arrested Sept. 2, 2010, nearly a month after banging on a woman’s trailer hoping to flush out a suspect. Records indicate the trailer sustained $1,700 worth of damage. The judge in the case said prosecutors failed to show the two officers damaged the trailer with intent and malice. Ranum was rehired about a year later.
Booth violated several policies during Chippewa’s arrest on about 3:30 a.m. on June 13, 2013, near the boat ramps on the eastern span of the Seabreeze Bridge. Booth also violated directives by striking Chippewa in the head, either by kicking her or with a knee strike. It was unclear which he did because at different times Booth claimed to have done one or the other, leading to a finding that he violated a directive having to do with making a false report.
Booth told internal affairs investigators that he stuck his metal flashlight into Chippewa’s mouth because Ranum said she was trying to swallow illegal narcotics, the report states.
After using the flashlight, Booth “forced his fingers against the outside of Chippewa’s cheeks” as he tried to get the alleged narcotics, the report said. That’s another practice not approved by the department unless it is used to save someone’s life, which Booth admitted was not the circumstance, the report states.
Booth said he did not see any signs that Chippewa was having medical problems from the alleged overdose and did not call paramedics.
Booth said he kicked Chippewa in the head because she bit him hard through her cheeks. Booth then stuck his fingers inside her mouth, the report states.
Chippewa, 37, was charged with tampering with physical evidence and obstructing an officer without violence. No drugs were found on Chippewa and she did not suffer any ill effects that would have indicated she swallowed drugs.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to file charges.
Chippewa has retained attorney Jonathan Rotstein, who has sent a notice of claim to the city, the first step before any lawsuit would be filed.
Chippewa has prior convictions from 2010 cases of possession of schedule IV substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. She also has prior convictions from 2009 cases of introduction of contraband into a correctional facility and resisting an officer without violence.