LARGO — Actions captured in a YouTube video from April 4 titled “White Largo Florida Cop Chokes Black Teen,” which was posted on Largo police’s Facebook page, has cost an officer his job.
Largo police Chief Jeff Undestad fired Brian Livernois, 43, June 18 after an internal investigation found Livernois had violated department policy.
Investigators say Livernois violated the department’s policy against the use of choke holds and neck restraints except in cases where aggravated physical resistance is encountered. He also violated policy against bullying, being discourteous or rude, including the use of profane, abusive or insulting language.
“We take great pride in the positive relationship the Largo Police Department has with our community,” Undestad said in a press release. “Actions like this are not acceptable and violate the public’s trust, which every employee has worked so hard to earn. This situation warranted the former officer’s termination.”
Livernois began work for Largo PD in November 2012.
The incident caught on video began the afternoon of April 4 when Livernois responded to a report of a battery that involved a black male threatening to shoot someone. Livernois subsequently located five people walking in the area. One of them was a 17-year-old black male who matched the description of the male who had reportedly made a threatening statement.
In the video, Livernois can be heard telling the teen to “put it out.” The teen, who was not identified, later told investigators he had been smoking a Black & Mild cigar.
Livernois is then heard saying, “You want to buck up on me, dude?” Then he says, “You got a problem with me?”
“You got a problem with me?” the teen replies.
“Yeah, I do,” Livernois says.
One voice on the video can be heard saying, “chill out.” Another person tells Livernois that they like his ring.
Livernois ignores everyone else and tells the teen to take his hands out of his pockets. The teen tells him that his hands aren’t in his pocket. In the video, the teen’s hands can be seen along the waistband of his pants.
Livernois then tells the teen, “I can jack you up right now.”
The teen crosses his hands across his chest, and Livernois grabs him by the arm and pushes him over to the front of his police cruiser. The teen turns to face Livernois, at which point the officer spins the teen around and puts his hands around his neck.
Voices in the background are heard telling the teen not to resist.
Livernois can be heard saying, “Do it. Do it right now. I’m telling you.”
When it appears that the officer is choking the teen, the female on the scene begins screaming. A white male begins to try to intercede and tells Livernois not to touch the teen. Livernois then steps away from the 17-year-old to face the other male.
The video ends.
Largo PD began an investigation April 5, which included a review of two YouTube videos of the incident and in-car recordings from Livernois and other officers who responded to the scene. None of the police recording showed any of the interactions captured on the YouTube video.
In his interview with investigators, Livernois said he had been scared that the teen had a gun, although he had not patted him down to check. Livernois said because of the teen’s posture, he felt he wanted to fight.
He also said he had escorted the 17-year-old to the front of his cruiser, “because I wanted, um, it on video,” the investigators report said.
“Because if he did have a gun and I – you know, deadly force had to be used, I wanted it captured on video. So, that’s the reason why I escorted him to the front of my cruiser is ‘cause I wanted that pat down or, um – captured on video.”
Livernois stated that he had used the “minimal amount of force” and “had never applied any pressure to the throat,” adding he had never restricted the teen’s breathing.
However, in the investigators’ interview with teen, when asked if his breathing was restricted, he said, “Yeah. At – at first, yeah.” He said he had felt pressure on the back and front of his neck. The teen also told investigators he had not suffered any injuries due to Livernois’ actions.
Investigators questioned Livernois about his exact hold on the teen’s neck and asked when he was taught the “pressure point technique, under the jaw contact pressure point manipulation,” Livernois had documented in his report about the incident.
Livernois told investigators he didn’t remember learning the technique he used in defensive tactics. He said it was something he “thought was proper at the time that I – when I applied it.”
“Based on my review, I determined that (the teen’s) highest level of resistance was a Level 4: active physical resistance, and Officer Livernois’ response to resistance, neck restraint/choke hold requires a Level 6: aggravated physical resistance,” the investigator concluded.
Disciplinary action for the violation is termination.
The YouTube video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asIoOJKhJ9c.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.