For immediate release December 6, 2023
[PHOTOS, VIDEOS AND COMPLAINT AVAILABLE]
Gainesville, Florida — A civil rights lawsuit has been filed against a Bradford County Sheriff’s deputy resulting from an incident of excessive force that sent a protester in front of Florida State Prison in Raiford to the hospital on December 6, 2020.
The same deputy, Dalton Sumner, is also facing charges of “sexual battery on a victim 18 years or older” stemming from an incident reported earlier this year.
Videos of Deputy Dalton Sumner show him targeting Panagioti Tsolkas, an organizer with Florida Prisoner Solidarity, based on a verbal exchange in which Sumner expressed anger over Tsolkas’ opinion. After handcuffing Tsolkas, Sumner then slammed him into the ground with such force that Tsolkas required stiches in emergency care at the hospital in Starke.
Tsolkas is part of the group that was protesting human rights violations and unconstitutional conditions in the prison. After he was told to leave the area near the prison’s gates, law enforcement began arresting people on FDOT’s right-of-way instead of allowing them to leave, despite having no legal authority to do so.
Two other activists, Danielle Chanzes and Dami Feral, were also arrested while following the order to leave the site. All three were given exorbitant bonds totaling $110,000 for trumped up felony charges, none of which were ultimately filed against them.
Following the hospital visit, Tsolkas was dumped in a jail cell, suffering without pain medication. The injury caused permanent scarring and trauma for his family.
As the civil rights lawsuit filed by attorney James Slater explains, Florida law protects a person from unlawful assault and battery, and Sumner acted with “callous or reckless indifference to [Tsolkas’] right to be free from excessive force.”
Slater, who represents Tsolkas, writes, “as a result of Plaintiff’s speech, Defendant violently threw Plaintiff to the ground while he was handcuffed behind his back.”
The lawsuit is asking Dalton Sumner for compensatory and punitive damages.
BACKGROUND AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Prior to tackling and arresting Tsolkas, Deputy Sumner is seen in videos pushing an individual to the ground and pointing a weapon at multiple people, including Danielle Chanzes prior to her arrest. Chanzes was found not guilty at a trial by jury in July 2021.
Dami Feral was senselessly tackled and arrested by Bradford County Sheriff’s deputy Jacob Desue. Desue has since been forced to resign, resulting from a pattern of inappropriate conduct which has been featured in multiple news stories.
About Desue’s conduct, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith said, “I am disturbed and disheartened how Jacob Desue handled the traffic stop… Desue should have deescalated the situation but disappointingly was unable to respond in the appropriate manner.”