A Florida woman has filed a civil lawsuit against a former Escambia County, Fla., deputy, charging that he shocked her with a Taser in her chest and neck without provocation, tried to cover up the incident and then later—adding insult to injury—apologized with a cake.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, Stephanie Byron filed the lawsuit in May, claiming that Michael Wohlers used excessive force, violated her civil rights, committed battery, and caused her physical injuries, monetary loss, medical expenses, humiliation and mental anguish.
The original alleged incident dates to June 2015, when, according to the suit, Wohlers had finished his patrol shift and went to visit Byron at an apartment complex where she worked.
According to the News Journal, documents from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission indicated that Wohlers deployed his stun gun during “horseplay” with the victim. However, Byron and her attorney deny that any “play” was involved.
The lawsuit accuses Wohlers of using “his apparent law-enforcement authority to intimidate, harass and threaten plaintiff … about her personal life. Because Wohlers did not like how plaintiff failed to respond to his show of authority, Wohlers became increasingly aggressive toward employees at the apartment complex’s office, including with Ms. Byron,” the News Journal reports.
The lawsuit claims that Wohlers took Byron’s sweet tea from her and refused to return it, and that when Byron went to get the drink back, Wohlers discharged his Taser into her chest and throat. When Byron fell to the ground, the lawsuit charges, Wohlers “jumped onto [her], kneeing her in the chest” and “forcefully removed the Taser prods.”
Court documents indicate that Wohler later tried to apologize by baking Byron a cake with the words “Sorry I Tased You” written on it, the News Journal reports.
The News Journal reported the story with a picture of the apparent cake and also tweeted out an image:
However, the New York Daily News reports, that image is apparently unrelated to the story and was uploaded to Imgur in February 2014, a full year before the alleged incident.
BuzzFeed Deputy News Director Jon Passantino first tweeted out about the discrepancy.
That said, according to the Associated Press, Byron’s attorney entered a photo of the (presumably real) cake as an exhibit into the court file.
Wohlers resigned from the sheriff’s office in July 2015 while under investigation for misconduct.
Wohlers’ attorney denied the accusations and emphasized that Wohlers is protected by “qualified immunity,” which can protect government officials from civil liability lawsuits if an official did not knowingly violate an individual’s rights in the performance of his duties.
Byron is seeking compensatory damages, costs, expenses and reasonable attorney’s fees.