ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35, Orlando) - It was a confrontation that did not end well, a 26-year-old Orlando Police Officer versus an 84-year-old World War Two Veteran. That officer threw the man to the ground breaking his neck, an act described as self defense after police say the senior kept touching the officer.
Daniel Daley underwent surgery at Florida Hospital South on Monday. Doctors had to operate to repair a broken vertebrae.
The original incident happened Saturday night when Daley, who according to police was intoxicated, confronted a tow truck driver across the street from an Orlando bar on N. Orange Avenue. A tow truck operator was in the process of towing Daley's vehicle when he was confronted by 84 year old. The two got into an argument, so the driver then called police to the scene.
According to police, Daley put his hands on the responding officer several times. They said when Daley tried to punch the officer, the cop was forced to take him to the ground.
Daley's family has since retained high profile Orlando attorney Mark NeJame.
FOX 35 has found there to be conflicting stories as to what actually led to the scuffle. Bar owner and eyewitness Tim Scott believes the OPD officer used excessive force.
"To see an 84 year old man with his feet in the air and hear his head hit the pavement from across the street, it was like watching one of my grandparents get beat up," said Scott.
Another eyewitness, Faith Palermo, disagrees. "He was drunk and he was being very loud, very abusive and physical," Palermo said of Daley. Palermo told her daughter to call 911 after things got ugly between Daley and a tow truck driver who was about to haul off Daley's car.
When the officer arrived, Palermo said Daley physically whacked the cop on the right shoulder. She said Daley, "shook him just slightly and said, 'Listen to me! You have to listen to me'" She said the officer stepped back and removed Daley's hands and told him to calm down.
Orlando Police Sergeant Barbara Jones says according to the police report, Daley did not calm down. "If somebody grabbed you around the neck and went like that," Jones said, gesturing as if to throw a punch, "and said, 'I'm not going anywhere, until I knock out this cop,' are you going to wait around?"
Jones added that Daley had a .187 blood alcohol level.
Some witnesses said that Daley only put his hands on the officer's shoulders in a non-aggressive manner and that the officer picked up the man, turned him over in the air and slammed him down to the ground head first. The officer wrote in his report that he felt that he was in eminent danger and used the push bar method to take Daley down.
Police said that when they saw Daley was injured they called for an ambulance. Daley was taken to the hospital and according to his son, Greg Daley, his father has reminded in intensive care with a broken neck.
FOX 35 spoke with that tow truck driver on Monday who says the officer told him to leave once he arrived, but he did offer his perspective on what happened before the officer arrived.
Russ Smith with Moldon's Towing was the one who was driving the truck called to the parking lot on North Orange Avenue to tow Daley's car.
Smith says Daley was angry and hit him.
"He hit me three times and three times I told him please stop hitting me and he wouldn't stop hitting me," said Smith.
Smith says Daley couldn't really pack a punch and really didn't pose a threat.
"The three hits I took from the older man was not hard at all he did hit me and shouldn't have put his hand on me but at the same token I took into consideration that he was pretty elderly and it didn't hurt at all," said Smith.
Such a little threat that even though cops arrived, Smith says he didn't tell them about Daley's behavior and when he was told to leave he did.
"I never mentioned the fact that he hit more or anything to the officer I didn't think it needed to go that far," he said.
OPD has turned over the results of their investigation to the State Attorney's Office and is now recommending that Daley be charged with two felonies for assault and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Because he is in the hospital, Scott has not yet been formally charged.