An off-duty Lakeland police officer who said he was “cut off” in traffic, reacted by following, confronting and punching the other driver, Polk County deputies said.
Officer Jerry Matthew Monroe, 41, of 219 Massachusetts Ave., Lakeland, was charged with battery and placed on paid leave.
According to an arrest affidavit, Andrew Jones and his girlfriend, Victoria Paradise, were heading east in the left lane on County Road 540A near Lakeland, and Monroe and his 14-year-old son were in a Honda Insight in the right lane.
Jones, who was en route to pick up a pizza at a Papa John’s, changed from the left to the right lane in front of Monroe’s vehicle. “Mr. Monroe felt Mr. Jones passed closely to his vehicle and almost caused a wreck,” the affidavit said.
Monroe honked, and both drivers made obscene gestures while continuing until a red light at Carter Road, where Monroe exited his car and “yelled towards Jones’ vehicle,” the affidavit said. Jones and his passenger did not respond, according to witnesses in another vehicle.
On a green light, both cars proceeded and Jones turned into a shopping plaza at Lakeland Highlands Road, stopping at the Papa John’s, the affidavit said. Monroe followed Jones into the plaza and stopped behind Jones’ car, the affidavit said.
Monroe exited his car, yelled at Jones and pushed him in toward his car, deputies said. Monroe picked Jones up and took him to the ground, where he punched Jones in the face and pinned him, the affidavit said. Jones told deputies his head was slammed into the pavement by Monroe.
A Papa John’s employee and another witness were able to restrain Monroe. Afterward, according to the affidavit, Monroe continued to “antagonize” Jones by saying, “Do you want more? Do you want to finish this?”
Jones and Paradise went inside the Papa John’s and a witness called 911.
A surveillance video recorded the physical confrontation.
Jones was later taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center and treated for abrasions and a possible concussion, the sheriff’s office said.