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Accounts diverge on arrest of senior - Daniel Daley suffered a broken neck after a confrontation with an Orlando police officer this weekend

One minute, 84-year-old Daniel Daley Jr. was arguing with an Orlando police officer about his car being towed.

The next, he was on the ground in handcuffs with a broken neck.

That much is not in dispute. But versions of the story diverge from there.

Ultimately, the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office will decide whether Daley should be charged with assault and battery on a law-enforcement officer and disorderly conduct -- as police recommend. Advocates for Daley think the officer is the one who may have violated the law.

The incident has divided the neighborhood along North Orange Avenue near Lake Ivanhoe, with its mix of restaurants, bars, antique stores and other shops.

Police and one witness say Daley was belligerent and threatened Officer Travis Lamont, 26. Lawyers representing Daley say Lamont overreacted, endangering the life of a sweet old widower and veteran of World War II and Vietnam.

In a report released Monday, Lamont said Daley had been drinking, kept slapping the officer on the shoulder and was warned to cut it out. But Daley persisted, grabbed the officer's neck and "cocked his right hand back as if to throw a punch," Lamont wrote.

"I'm not going anywhere till I knock out this cop," Lamont quoted Daley as saying in the report.

"I immediately feared a physical attack was imminent so I grabbed Daley Jr.'s left wrist with my left hand while placing my right hand on his left elbow," Lamont wrote. "I then pivoted on the ball of my left foot while dropping my right knee toward the ground. I then directed Daley Jr. to the ground with an arm bar technique."

Eyewitness Sean Hill, a patron of The Caboose bar, where Daley had been drinking before the confrontation, described the takedown as more of a hip check and a flip that drove Daley into the pavement headfirst. Furthermore, Lamont never told Daley to stop touching him, nor was the older man was aggressive or a threat, Hill said.

Hill said Daley tapped the officer's shoulders a few times but suddenly stumbled forward and reached for the officer's shoulders to catch his balance.

"The police officer never asked him to stop with the hands," said Hill, who often plays the Golden Tee video-golf game with Daley at the bar.

"I heard Dan's head hit the ground first, then his body," he added.

Orlando attorney Mark NeJame is representing Daley and spent the day interviewing witnesses. So far, he said, it appears to him that Lamont overreacted.

"If a law officer violated the law, then he should be held to the same standard as everyone else," NeJame said.

The lawyer said Daley has never had legal trouble. But Lamont has been investigated three times by the police internal-affairs division.

Lamont, who joined the department in December 2008, damaged his patrol car twice and was reprimanded, records show. In April, he wrongly arrested a man on a simple battery charge and had to ask a judge to release the man from jail. He received a written reprimand.

That doesn't mean he was wrong in Daley's case, authorities said.

"Things can happen when you're trying to take custody of somebody," said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a police spokeswoman. "Officers can get hurt. He has a right to defend himself."

A second officer who arrived after Lamont, Natasha Endrina, said the elderly man looked as though he was going to choke her colleague, Jones said. Hill said Endrina remained inside a police car during the confrontation.

"I was a federal officer for 20 years!" the report quotes Daley as saying as he slapped Lamont's shoulder. "They can't do this!"

Daniel Daley's blood-alcohol level was .187, more than twice the legal limit for a driver, the report noted.

As patrons and workers at The Caboose watched a report of the incident on the television news Monday, they booed a police version of events and insisted that Daley is gentle, slight and couldn't hurt anyone.

Daley was upset because his car, which he'd parked outside the Ivanhoe Grocery, was being towed. A dispute about parking between the new operators of the convenience store and other businesses has been going on for months, shopkeepers said.

Mike Lynch, who runs Moldon's Towing, told the Orlando Sentinel that Daley was belligerent with his driver and pushed him several times. Daley also argued with Faith Palermo from Ivanhoe Grocery, the report states. Palermo, who called police, confirmed the officer's account of events, according to the report.

She said that bar patrons were hurting her family's business.

"You have a parking lot at your place of business," Palermo said. "You can't let people go across the street and park in your lot."

Bill Warheit, who works at Rock 'N Roll Heaven, in the strip shopping center near the convenience store, said the situation has created a rift in the normally cohesive community.

"I feel real sad that this whole neighborhood squabble about the parking spot came to this," Warheit said.

Daley was recovering Monday night from surgery to repair the first vertebra in his neck. His forehead swelled and bled a little, and his elbows and knees were scraped after he was handcuffed, Lamont wrote in a report.

Doctors expect a full recovery, said Daley's son, Greg Daley.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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