Detention officer caught on video pepper spraying detainee


by Alicia E. Barrón

Posted on December 21, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 22 at 8:56 AM

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. -- A former Chandler police officer who was fired after shooting an unarmed woman is once again under review, this time by his new employer.

Dan Lovelace now works for the Pinal County Sheriff's Office. This latest review stems from a video taken on Dec. 11 that shows Lovelace using pepper spray on a detainee.

It happened at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center.

The detainee, an illegal immigrant who was booked into the detention center on July 23, was in a recreational area with eight other people when he asked to use the restroom, which he had just used 12 minutes earlier. The man was told he would have to wait until a detention officer finished checking on other detainees.

According to Tim Gaffney of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, the other individuals in the room goaded the detainee into defecating on the floor.

When Lovelace and three other detention officers went to remove the man from the room, the detainee had feces in his hand, creating a biohazard situation.

Lovelace told the detainee to lie down on the ground and put his hands behind his back, but the man refused to comply. The other detainees in the common room began yelling as Lovelace continued to tell the man to lie down. The detainee again refused. That's when Lovelace pepper sprayed him.

"The detainee was then taken to the ground and still refused to put his hands behind his back," Gaffney said in a news release.

After a second short burst of pepper spray, the detainee did comply with the verbal commands Lovelace and the other detention officer were giving him.

Any time force is used, including the deployment of pepper spray, the Professional Standards Unit reviews the situation.

Lovelace has been assigned to duties that do not involve contact with inmates or detainees until that review can be completed. That's expected to take a couple of days.

Lovelace's career in law enforcement has not been without controversy.

He was involved in a high-speed chase that led to the death of an Arizona State University student while being a Chandler officer in 2000.

In 2002, Lovelace shot an unarmed Chandler woman who had attempted to fill a false prescription. He was acquitted of murder charges although Chandler officials had to pay millions of dollars in wrongful death suits in both cases.

Lovelace was fired by the Chandler Police Department and joined PCSO last spring. Officials there say they stand by Lovelace’s conduct in this recent case until investigation results reveal otherwise.