JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested one of its own Tuesday after he was seen on video groping a woman during a playful exchange at a bar in 5 Points.
JSO announced during a news conference the arrest of Ofc. Thomas McDonald, an 18-year veteran, after obtaining a warrant for his arrest on a charge of simple battery, said undersheriff Pat Ivey.
Police obtained video footage of the exchange between McDonald and the female victim.
Ivey said McDonald was having drinks with a couple and another man at Birdie’s in the 1000 block of Park Street in 5 Points.
During the visit to the bar, McDonald and the woman were having a “fun conversation.” She was “play-punching” McDonald and he then allegedly touched her upper breast area.
Ivey said the woman had a shocked look on her face and then punched McDonald before looking to her significant other for assurance, Ivey said.
The undersheriff said McDonald made a “horrible choice” and faces possible termination. His police powers have also been revoked. He also cited this is not the first time the officer has been in trouble. McDonald previously was suspended for 10 days four years ago for an unnamed violation, Ivey said.
Undersheriff Ivey additionally said that about three weeks ago he signed a recommendation for McDonald to be suspended for 15 days on an unrelated charge. McDonald is challenging that recommendation.
Simple battery is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, with penalties including up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
McDonald is the eighth JSO employee arrested this year. Since July 1, 2015, JSO has made 32 suspensions, 17 terminations and 45 employees have resigned or retired after coming under investigation during their employment, Ivey said in the news conference.
“Nobody’s going to say that we don’t hold our employees accountable,” Ivey said in the news conference. “It’s just us doing what we feel we need to do.”
According to documents provided by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, McDonald has garnered 20 citizen complaints during his tenure as an officer with JSO. He has also received formal counseling numerous times.
JSO currently has close to 4,000 employees.