The Suspect Who Wasn’t

What’s been lost in the Daley-Lamont controversy is why police were called to Ivanhoe Grocery on North Orange Avenue in the first place.

Last month I wrote in this space that I felt that an intoxicated elderly man bore some responsibility for creating a disturbance that ended with him being seriously injured by an Orlando police officer. (“Who’s Responsible for Daley’s Injury?”)

I still think that’s true, but there is another issue that I believe points to a serious error in judgment by Officer Travis Lamont.

The Orlando Police Department may have approved Lamont’s use of an arm bar takedown in arresting the 84-year-old Daley on Sept. 18 —a finding that was as ho-hum predictable as a sunrise—but another important question that should have been asked was: Did he properly investigate the disturbance call?

I don’t believe he did, a perspective I came to after reviewing the dispatch records related to the incident—documents I initially overlooked.
What’s been lost in the Daley-Lamont controversy is why police were called to Ivanhoe Grocery on North Orange Avenue in the first place. Lamont and Officer Natasha Endrina, patrolling in separate cars, were not dispatched to investigate Daley. The officers were dispatched to “check on business owner Tim,” who grocery store owner Alexandra Talukdar accused, in 911 calls, of threatening her and her family over a towing dispute. Dispatchers advised the officers that “ Tim” was described as “ex-military” and “dangerous,” references based on Talukdar’s calls at 10:05 and 10:09 p.m.

As Lamont arrived on the scene first, a few men were standing in the vicinity of a tow truck in the Ivanhoe Plaza parking lot. One of them was Daley, who was upset over his car being towed from a patrons-only parking lot. Daley had parked there while he visited The Caboose, a beer-and-wine pub across the street, as he had done on earlier occasions.

 Now I’m just thinking off the top of my pointy head here, but wouldn’t you agree that Lamont should have been keenly interested in trying to find out if the “dangerous” Tim was among them?

Yet there is no mention in the reports of Lamont making contact with Tim, or even looking for him, after he arrived on the scene.

Tim would have been easy to find, too. Tim Scott was standing outside The Caboose, which he owns, when police arrived. It was Scott who had gotten into a shouting match with Talukdar’s mother, Faith Palermo, when he spotted her walking in his direction. Scott was upset over Daley’s car being towed. Since Talukdar and Palermo began operating the store some months back, he told me, cars were being towed frequently. Their loud dispute precipitated Talukdar’s 911 calls from the grocery store.

I think it’s possible that Lamont mistook Daley for “Tim” because the officer had been informed the disturbance involved an argument over towing, and when he arrived he spotted an angry elderly man and a tow truck driver in a parking lot. Furthermore, Daley’s remarks that he had fought in three wars and his agitated mood could have fit the “ex-military” and “dangerous” descriptions.

Endrina’s report on the incident seems to support such an assumption. She said when she arrived on the scene the tow truck was just leaving and Lamont told her the call was over. For all she knew, the elderly man talking with Lamont was Tim and the disturbance had come to an uneventful end.

So Endrina remained in her patrol car nearly the entire 10 minutes that Lamont stood and talked with Daley, who was complaining to him about his car being towed and having to pay the tow truck driver $50 to unload the vehicle in the parking lot.

But one simple question by Lamont—“Sir, what is your name?”—could have changed the course of the night, with Daley being left to fume while the cops investigated the 911 complaint.

Yes, Daley was intoxicated, and Lamont described him as belligerent, but had he been eliminated as a suspect one officer could have kept an eye on him, lest he attempt to drive his car, while the other officer located Tim.

Scott, by the way, had called police that night, too, so he was not trying to hide. At 10:09 p.m. he called to complain that “a business across the street is harassing people, towing customers,” and at 10:22 p.m. he called again, saying, “There is an 86-year-old [sic] man who is arguing about his car getting towed and he’s been drinking. He touched the police officer and this young police officer flips him through the air on his face. . .  This is just totally over the top.”

Police located Scott hours later to get his statement about what he saw. He refused to comply.

Endrina’s inaction that night has been viewed as proof that Daley wasn’t being hostile or she would have been standing beside Lamont. I don’t buy that theory because Lamont led her to believe that the call had been resolved. As she sat in her car, she reported that she saw Daley touch Lamont a few times on his shoulder and move toward the officer. As she rolled her patrol car closer to them, she said she saw Daley lunge toward Lamont and put both hands on his neck.

Bam. Down Daley went on the hard pavement as Lamont arrested him for disorderly conduct and battery on a police officer. Only then did Lamont identify Daley. The state attorney’s office reacted swiftly to the media frenzy over Lamont’s use of force and dropped the charges against Daley.

Scott is the among the witnesses who said Daley never made any threatening gestures and Lamont never protested being touched on the shoulders.

I still believe Daley made some bone-headed mistakes that night, but would they have culminated in tragedy had Lamont realized the old man in the parking lot wasn’t the suspect he was dispatched to check on?
I wish we knew.

Due to inaccurate information provided to lifestyle editor Denise Bates Enos, there were a number of errors in a story titled “Odd Sizes Add to Visual Appeal” in our November issue. The designer of the wall mosaic was the homeowner, Louann Thornton, and the tiles were handcrafted by Raleo. The home is in the Heathrow area.

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