JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — **Warning: Video may be disturbing to some.
Newly released body worn camera footage shows the beating that led to the arrest and firing of a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer in November 2020.
The video shows Officer Matthew Alimurung repeatedly punching a DUI suspect in the face and head with the muzzle of his Taser. It shows him punching the man while he is being restrained by officers and, after the man lay handcuffed on the ground, returning to spit on him.
“It’s just totally unacceptable,” said First Coast News Crime Analyst Kim Varner, watching the video for the first time. “Totally uncalled for, totally unnecessary.”
First Coast News began requesting the video that led to the criminal investigation after JSO announced Alimurung's arrest. That request was initially denied due to his ongoing criminal prosecution.
Neither Alimurung nor JSO responded to requests for comment.
Varner, a former JSO Taser instructor, says using one as an impact weapon is inappropriate. “You never punch somebody in the head. I haven't seen that unless it's a situation where you're in a serious fight ... if you’re in a fight for your life.”
Removing the cartridge at the tip of the muzzle and “dry stunning” the man would have been more effective, Varner said. “Instead, this guy [Alimurung] was using some serious force, coming down at an angle, so the corner of that hard plastic would hit you in the head. That would definitely hurt.”
The driver, who ultimately pleaded guilty to DUI with damage and battery on a law enforcement officer, was briefly hospitalized after the takedown.
Varner observed that although the suspect had led officers on a lengthy chase and even hit several JSO vehicles, he wasn’t aggressive to officers during the arrest. He showed his hands and began apologizing, even as he was pulled from his van.
“It appeared to me that he was trying to protect himself by covering up more so than resistant in my opinion. Resistant is when they just refuse. He's telling them 'OK officer, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I’m sorry.'”
Varner found the spitting even more egregious than the hitting, however.
“Using excessive force is one thing, but then to spit on the individual after you have them handcuffed, that's a whole ‘nother level,” he said. “That puts so much fuel on the fire to see him do that. … It even becomes almost a racial type thing, you know, a Black guy getting spit on by a white person.”
He added, “That was caught on camera. How many times has he done that in the past?”
Alimurung’s discipline history shows four prior complaints of unnecessary force. Just one was sustained, in March 2019, a year before the Taser beating. He also was disciplined for rudeness, and unbecoming conduct -- for which he received formal “de-escalation” training
The testimony and body camera footage of the other 19 officers on scene formed the foundation of the criminal case against Alimurung, something Undersheriff Pat Ivey pointed out when announcing the officer’s arrest in November 2020.
“There were multiple people, as you will see when the BWC comes out, multiple officers engaged in this situation -- this exact one,” Ivey said. “And only one guy is being arrested for his behavior. So 90% getting it right in this incident. One guy’s not.”
Alimurung pleaded guilty to charges of felony battery and filing a false law enforcement report. The judge withheld adjudication on the felony and sentenced him to a year of house arrest, one day in jail (which he’d already served) and 50 hours of community service. As part of his plea deal, the 5-year veteran had to surrender his law enforcement certification.
Varner says that’s good news.
“A lot of guys get fired from our agency to go somewhere else and get a job. Well, this guy can't do that, because they took his certificate from him,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Office did the right thing. That guy doesn’t deserve to wear the badge.”