West Palm Beach rookie quits, 2 officers face discipline after being caught on tape beating suspect

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 11, 2008

WEST PALM BEACH — One city police officer resigned and two more were placed on administrative leave after a dashboard camera captured images of them punching and kicking a handcuffed man in the face.

On May 26, Officer Louis Schwartz had pulled a car over outside a CVS pharmacy at 6800 South Dixie Highway when a pharmacy clerk told him a man in a black ski mask looked like he was about to rob the store.

As Schwartz walked in, the man, later identified as Pablo Gilberto Valenzuela, 42, of West Palm Beach, ran out through an emergency exit, turning to spray Schwartz with pepper spray as the officer gave chase, according to police reports.

A video recording captured what happened next:

Schwartz drew his gun and, ordering Valenzuela to the ground, approached as Officer Kurt Graham, who had heard Schwartz's calls for help over the radio, closed in on the prone man. Graham put a knee into Valenzuela's back and handcuffed him.

The video then showed Graham punch and kick Valenzuela in the face. Schwartz approached and also kicked Valenzuela in the face.

Later, as Officer Jason Zangara hoisted a bloodied Valenzuela to his feet, the video showed Valenzuela lurching away from Zangara's grasp. Zangara whirled on the handcuffed man and punched him several times in the face, until the man collapsed on the pavement, the video showed.

Officers hauled him up again and led him out of the frame.

Valenzuela was held at the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of robbery, assault and battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.