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Police: 2 officers injured in brawl during arrest

Officers attacked at homeless village while arresting wanted felon

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two Gainesville police officers were injured while arresting a convicted felon Monday night.

According to the Gainesville Police Department, Officer John Maloney suffered a broken hand and Officer Ashley DeCurtis suffered other injuries to her head and arms while arresting John Smith, a 43-year-old convicted felon the officers found while checking on a disturbance reported at a Dignity Village, a local homeless camp.

Smith was wanted on felony drug charges and is also a registered sexual offender. Based on his records, he has a history of resisting police. He has recently been the subject of a month's long narcotics investigation involving drugs and other crimes at Dignity Village, GPD said. Smith was identified as being responsible for selling illegal narcotics to the residents.

Once the officers identified Smith and tried to arrest him for the felony drug warrant, Smith resisted, according to GPD. The officers placed Smith on the ground, but he refused to put his arms behind his back. The officers were not sure if Smith was hiding a weapon, but later discovered he was hiding illegal drugs.

Maloney tried to force Smith to release his arms by striking him on the shoulders. Smith then resisted by punching Maloney several times in the face.

While Maloney and DeCurtis were fighting with Smith, a crowd of 50 to 60 angry Dignity Village residents gathered around the officers. Kenyatta L. Brown, 38, who also has a history of resisting or obstructing police approached and punched Maloney several times in the head.

DeCurtis then tried to keep the group away from Maloney, but several people confronted and pushed her. One person who has not been identified yet tried to remove DeCurits' gun belt.

The officers requested emergency backup and multiple officers from both the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and GPD responded. Officers were finally able to get Smith in custody, followed by Brown. Two other people were also arrested for disturbing the investigation. Roy Jones, 53, was arrested for continuing to advance on Maloney during the arrest. When officers attempted to secure Jones, 43-year-old Alicia Chavez grabbed Jones and attempted to pull him away from officers. Chavez also has a history of resisting police and was arrested in 2014 for striking an officer attempting to make an arrest.

Maloney and DeCurtis are currently unable to work due to their injuries.

GPD said police have noticed a marked increase in the amount of violence in Dignity Village in recent months, including an attempted homicide in April. Officers have received numerous reports of other crimes, including narcotics and prostitution. This increase has caused a request for two full-time officers at Dignity Village to help alleviate these issues even before Monday's incident.

GPD spokesman Ben Tobias praised the professionalism of the two officers during the violent encounter.

"We as police are expected to bring order to areas where there is disorder" Tobias said. "These officers were attempting to arrest a wanted convicted felon that is responsible for some of that disorder when the crowd turned on them. I'm proud that we were able to control the situation with the most reasonable force required. This situation could have been a lot worse. In this case an officer was forced to strike a suspect. Strikes never look ‘good' but it appears that they were done properly within training."

GPD said it will be increasing its presence again in Dignity Village.  

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