Saturday, June 22

Riviera Beach police sergeant accused of striking man with pistol

A Riviera Beach police sergeant was temporarily removed from street patrol while the department conducts an internal affairs investigation.

According to a police report, the sergeant struck a man in the head with a pistol during a confrontation last year.

It was nine weeks between the time the police report found that Sgt. Russell Byrd admitted to striking a man with a pistol and the department taking him off street patrol. Police did not say directly if the incident was the reason for taking Byrd off patrol.

Meantime, the man who was hit by the pistol said it has left him scarred and scared.

Andrew Patterson said he’s just trying to get his life together after he was arrested in the parking lot of a motel in October.

“I ain’t angry, just disappointed,” Patterson said.

He said he’s disappointed because he thought he was the victim of a crime Oct. 2, 2023. Instead, he was accused of committing a crime.

According to the police report, Byrd followed a car carrying someone who “stole a package from one of his neighbors.”

The report said, “Sergeant Byrd stated Patterson approached him in an aggressive manner.”

Byrd “armed with a firearm, reacted and struck Patterson with the firearm along the left side of his face.”

“Everything went black for a moment, and I just froze up. I don’t know if I was shot or hit,” Patterson said. “I was hoping he wouldn’t shoot because I didn’t really know what was going on for you to just up your firearm like that, and he slapped me.”

But Patterson was initially charged with assault intentionally threatening to do violence.

Charges were dropped in January when the State Attorney’s Office found, “no reasonable likelihood of successful prosecution at the trial stage.”

Nine weeks after the arrest report, which included Byrd’s statement that he struck Patterson with his pistol, the sergeant was placed on “administrative leave with pay.”

The Dec. 6, 2022, memo to Byrd informing him of his leave does not say if it’s connected to the Patterson incident.

After he said he did not want to comment on the case, WPTV approached Riviera Beach Police Chief Michael Coleman.

Investigative reporter Dave Bohman wanted to know why the incident took place Oct. 2, but Byrd was not placed on administrative leave until Dec. 6.

“I don’t know,” Coleman said. “That’s something we have to find out during the investigation.”

Riviera Beach police confirm an internal investigation of the incident is underway.

WPTV asked the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office if it’s considering criminal charges against Byrd.

A spokesman emailed WPTV saying, “Our office is investigating allegations concerning the Riviera Beach Police Officer. Because the review is pending, we can’t comment further.”

NewsChannel 5 has tried to speak to Byrd and the police union that represents Riviera Beach police about the incident but neither have returned our calls.

Patterson said the incident is still fresh on his mind.

“It’s a traumatizing experience I went through mentally,” Patterson said. “That’s something I’ll always live with because if that gun would have gone off, he could have taken my life.”

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