NORTH PORT, Fla. The North Port Police party scandal that resulted in one officer facing criminal charges and another killing himself may be widening. ABC 7 has been told that more officers may have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the internal investigation.
Paralegal Michael Barfield, who originally requested the details of the case from North Port and ended up in court over the matter, alleges that the investigation has spread to include other officers who were at the party that night. There is no word on what has drawn the investigators to these officers because the investigation has yet to be made public. The lack of transparency has Barfield befuddled.
"Its almost like the death of a thousand cuts," he says. "We hear something one day, then the next. It makes no sense. It would be better if they just got their dirty laundry out on the table and dealt with it."
Last month, officials released a report stating officers Ricky Urbina and Melanie Turner handcuffed a woman and sexually assaulted her while at a party attended by multiple North Port police officers and hosted by the victim. According to the report, the victim reported the incident to one off-duty officer in attendance, with that officer then telling another off-duty cop at the party who then called a police supervisor.
"I'm trying to get to the bottom of who [was placed on leave] and for what," Barfield says, "but I've been stalemated in my public records request to the city."
N.P.P.D. has not yet released any of the findings of the internal investigation, but Barfield speculates that more officers being placed on leave is a strong indication of a widening investigation. Barfield suspects it has to do with the fact that Officer Urbina was on duty while at the party.
"Why off-duty officers didn't immediately call a supervisor and alert them to the presence of Mr. Urbina, who was in uniform while on duty, that should have stood out to them and they should have taken action immediately," he says. Barfield believes that a quicker response from the cops in attendance might have prevented the assault.
Officer Urbina committed suicide prior to being arrested. Turner is currently awaiting a trial date. Her department's Internal Affairs reports show this was not the first time Turner was involved in a situation in which she handcuffed someone and violated the police code of conduct.
According to the report, Turner had a relationship with her supervisor back in 2006, and when it ended Turner handcuffed the sargent's new girlfriend, placed her in the back of a patrol car and threatened to Baker Act her. Turner was disciplined for her actions but was allowed to remain with the department.
"I could not believe that she was still on the force after that incident," Barfield says. "So it certainly begs the question of why the city decided to keep Melanie Turner as a police officer to allow her the opportunity to do this again."