State declines to file battery charge against West Palm Beach police officer

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 10:21 AM EDT
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Prosecutors have declined to file an aggravated battery charge against a West Palm Beach police officer accused of using excessive force.

Palm Beach County court records show that the state on Wednesday announced its intent not to pursue the criminal charge against Nicholas Lordi.

"The evidence provided cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution," Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott wrote in a state attorney's office closeout memo.

Lordi is now back on modified duty, according to a West Palm Beach Police Department spokesman.

Lordi is accused of punching a man up to 11 times and breaking his nose during an incident on Nov. 1, 2019.

According to an arrest report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Lordi and another officer were called to a Food Plus grocery store on Nov. 1, 2019, and made contact with John Monroque, 65, regarding a "trespassing incident."

Surveillance video from the store showed Lordi speaking with Monroque for about 90 seconds.

Lordi then wrapped his arms around Monroque’s waist, moved him to a police cruiser outside the store, and “pushed” the victim’s head onto the hood of the car, the arrest report stated.

A struggle ensued between the officers and victim as they tried to put handcuffs on him. Monroque "did not allow himself to be handcuffed," the report stated.

Investigators said Lordi then pulled the victim backward and they both fell to the ground. Lordi then put Monroque in a headlock and punched him in his head and face six times.

During that time, Monroque didn't hit Lordi back.

Lordi then rolled the victim onto his stomach, sat on top of him and hit him five more times in his head and face.

Investigators said Lordi eventually stopped hitting Monroque when an unidentified person stepped in and "blocked" Lordi from striking the man. The second West Palm Beach police officer then handcuffed Monroque.

The arrest report stated that about 2 minutes and 40 seconds later, as Monroque was laying on the ground, Lordi could be heard telling the victim to "stop spitting" and "stop your [expletive], man, just stop."

Lordi then placed his right knee against the victim's head and held his head down for about 14 seconds.

Monroque was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center, where doctors said he suffered a "closed fracture of [his] nasal bones."

According to the state attorney's office closeout memo released Wednesday, Monroque was "uncooperative and belligerent" with Lordi and launched "racial insults" at both officers.

The memo stated that when Lordi tried to handcuff Monroque, the man resisted and "refused to put his hands behind his back" and was "physically resisting and fighting with both officers."

Reid added in the memo that "Officer Lordi did not elevate his use of force beyond 'hands on.'"

"Under the law, both officers reasonably reacted to what they perceived as an immediate threat of serious harm to themselves," the memo stated. "Additionally, the officers were attempting to make a lawful arrest, and as such had no duty to retreat."

Adam Myers, the president of the West Palm Beach Fraternal Order of Police, released the following statement Wednesday about the state attorney's office decision to not file charges against Lordi:

"On April 27, 2022 the State Attorney's Office of the 15th Circuit formally decided to abandon the criminal case against Officer Nicholas Lordi. The Fraternal Order of Police has stood behind him since the date of his arrest knowing Officer Lordi's actions were justified. The moment John Monroque grabbed the second officer's gun, the incident became a deadly force situation. Officer Lordi chose not to use deadly force and a violent struggle ensued as both Officers attempted to handcuff him. This was completely ignored by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). This investigation was based solely on the convenience store video which surfaced online approximately 18 months after Monroque's arrest. It was evident this video had been edited. FDLE overlooked additional case facts which the State Attorney's Office took into account when making their decision. The Fraternal Order of Police is extremely concerned about the investigative efforts by FDLE in this case and those in the future.

We are thankful the Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and his office, did its due diligence, examined all the available evidence, and found Officer Lordi's actions were not criminal."

Sue-Ann Robinson, an attorney representing Monroque, said the FDLE concluded that there was enough evidence to determine Lordi committed aggravated battery, so her client was surprised by the state's decision to no-file.

Robinson claims her client's constitutional rights were violated by Palm Beach County State Attorney "Dave Aronberg's office," saying Monroque had a right to be heard. She said she intends to file a lawsuit against the state attorney's office, stating she did not get the chance to advocate for her client.

The state attorney’s office released the following statement to WFLX Wednesday, responding to Robinson’s claim that Monroque’s rights were violated:

"Victims in any case have a right to be notified and present in the courtroom. That is what happened today. To our knowledge, a request to speak today was not communicated to our office or the court."

"While I understand that the state’s statement to you is, well, we called him, that’s not what the law requires," Robinson said. "The law doesn’t require a notice. The law requires that the victim have a voice and be heard."

Robinson said she's filed a complaint about the incident with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, but the Justice Department has declined to take any further action.

Lordi has an extensive history of being disciplined.

Records show Lordi has been involved in 15 use of force incidents and disciplined five times. Four citizens have made complaints against him.

Two weeks before the incident that got him arrested, Lordi was written up and ordered to undergo more training for not turning on his body cam. Not turning on a body cam is a violation of police department procedures.

Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, WFLX reported that Officer Nicholas Lordi was facing additional charges. That information was incorrect and we apologize for the error.

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