A deputy was arrested and then fired after a woman accused him of performing a lewd act in front of her and then unlawfully touching her, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
Joseph Mercado, 25, was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery and fired on Feb. 28, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Melanie Snow. He had been with the agency since January 2015.
"The Pasco Sheriff’s Office ensures discipline is paramount in our organization," Sheriff Chris Nocco said in a statement about the incident. "The allegations were investigated, he was arrested and terminated."
Under Florida law, misdemeanor battery is defined as touching or striking someone against their will.
The incident took place about 3 a.m. on Feb. 15, according to the arrest report. The deputy was off-duty at the time, Snow said.
The identity of the woman and the address of the incident were not released by the agency. The Sheriff’s Office did say that Mercado and the woman were not romantically involved at the time.
According to the arrest report, Mercado went to the woman’s home "under the guise of discussing a serious incident that he witnessed."
She agreed to speak to Mercado in the driveway.
Mercado then masturbated in front of the woman, who repeatedly asked him to leave, the report stated. He then touched the woman on her upper torso, the report said, and attempted to place his finger "on the victim’s lips, prior to her pulling away."
She continued to ask Mercado to leave, the report said, then went inside her home. Then he left.
Mercado was arrested on Feb. 28 without incident, the Sheriff’s Office said, and then was fired. He was freed from the Pasco County jail that same day after posting $500 bail.
"We will terminate on a case-by-case basis," Snow said. "It really depends on the charge. In this case, this was battery. So he was terminated."
Contact Jonathan Capriel at (813) 225-3141 or [email protected] Follow @jonathancapriel.