Deputies will return to duty after fight with Navy sailors; internal investigation continues

Video appears to show fight between Florida deputies, Navy sailors in Key West (Video courtesy: Daryl Harmon via FOX 13 News Tampa Bay)

Two off-duty, out-of-uniform Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies were arrested by Key West Police around 2 a.m.  Saturday following a fight with U.S. Navy sailors in the 500 block of Duval Street that resulted in one sailor being airlifted to a Miami hospital.

As of Wednesday evening, Sheriff Rick Ramsay said, the sailor had been released from the Intensive Care Unit and was in a regular hospital room in Miami.

Deputies Connor Scott Curry, 23, and Trevor Dawson Pike, 25, along with the three Navy sailors, were charged with disorderly conduct. Pike faces an additional charge of battery.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay has reviewed video footage of a fight on Duval Street early Saturday morning and believes his deputies were legally defending themselves. CONTRIBUTED

Curry and Pike were placed on unpaid leave by the sheriff’s office pending the criminal investigation as well as an internal affairs investigation.

But after reviewing cell phone video recorded by independent witnesses — five women who were downtown for a birthday party — Ramsay told the Keys Weekly on Wednesday, “I believe the criminal charges against my deputies are unjust. And I’ve asked Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg and State Attorney Dennis Ward to review the videos before proceeding with criminal charges. I believe the video clearly shows my deputies were defending themselves, and the Navy sailors were the aggressors in the fight.”

Ramsay added, “I am returning my deputies to duty. I believe the charges against them will be dropped. But they’re not out of the woods and will still face an internal affairs investigation into their actions that night.”

Ramsay also questioned the actions of a Key West police supervisory sergeant who was called to the scene after the fight “because policy dictates that any incident involving law enforcement officers requires a supervisor to be present.”

Ramsay said the five female witnesses repeatedly offered Key West police their cell phone video that shows the entire incident between the two off-duty deputies and three Navy personnel from a visiting squadron that’s training at Naval Air Station Key West.

‘The Key West police officers had body-cam footage, and there were several independent witnesses who kept pointing to the Navy sailors as the aggressors,” Ramsay said.

“The video clearly shows a Navy sailor in a white shirt charging one of the deputies. He swings and hits him in the upper cheek. My deputy grabbed him and took him to the ground while my other deputy stood by and did not engage.

“Then the other sailors come into the fight and charge the deputy,” Ramsay told the Keys Weekly on Wednesday. “As soon as my deputy hit one of the Navy guys, who immediately fell to the ground, my deputy stepped back and did nothing more than defend himself. He showed proper restraint after defending himself.

“This was close to 2 a.m., and the street was nearly empty, but there was not a lot of investigating going on by Key West Police,” Ramsay said. “Early on, the first Key West police officer on the scene believed the deputies were victim and witness, and the Navy personnel were the suspects.”

Ramsay said the five women with the video told Key West Police they had seen and recorded the whole scenario.

“The Key West police officers told the women to stand across the street and wait,” Ramsay said. “The women waited 10 or 15 minutes and then a Key West police officer said, ‘Nah, I don’t need to see the video.’”

“When the women saw on the news the next day that the deputies were facing charges, they emailed us at the sheriff’s office with their statements, contact info and the video they recorded.

“But,” Ramsay continued, “when the police supervisory sergeant arrived on scene, he decided, ‘Everyone, all five of them, goes to jail for disorderly conduct.’”

“This was despite the first police officer on the scene telling the supervisory sergeant that the deputies were a witness and a victim. He told the sergeant he doesn’t have anything to charge my deputies with,” Ramsay said.

“The Key West police officers clearly did not agree with the sergeant,” the sheriff said. “Then, when the ladies emailed their information to the sheriff’s office — and shared their video with a Fox News TV affiliate — I expressed my concern to Chief Brandenburg of Key West Police.

“I asked the police chief to please review the videos and draw his own conclusions. I asked the same thing of our state attorney, not to do my guys a favor, but to ensure we know who the aggressors are. All five of these guys’ careers are on the line,” Ramsay said.

“I believe this is an injustice and that these criminal charges will be dropped against my deputies,” Ramsay said.

Chief Brandenburg told the Keys Weekly on Wednesday evening that he is “still reviewing the video footage,” and declined to comment further until he had done so.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Trevor Pike MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE/Contributed
Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Connor Curry MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE/Contributed

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.