ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A St. Petersburg woman wants justice after she says she suffered brutality at the hands of Pinellas County deputies, claiming it was all captured on camera.
Worse, she says, the sheriff’s office never disciplined the deputies. So, she contacted 8 On Your Side to share her story.
It’s a night Elysia Watkins says she will never forget, one that haunts her months later. In fact, for her, one word comes to mind when she thinks about what took place – brutality.
“It’s disturbing. It makes me angry. It makes me very sad, and it makes me infuriated,” she told 8 On Your Side during an exclusive interview Monday.
The longtime project manager for an engineering firm says her nightmare began after she says she was wrongly singled-out in a domestic disturbance with her neighbors last December, and then subsequently arrested. The misdemeanor charges were soon dropped.
Elysia describes the booking process at the Pinellas County jail as “brutal” physical torture.
“Absolutely nobody cared. I feel that this goes on, I really do, and I have to say something,” she said. “There’s a huge issue inside the sheriff’s organization. I mean, this is supposed to be an organization that protects us.”
Elysia provided 8 On Your Side with a copy of the booking video, which is considered public record. The video shows her handcuffed behind her back, her face wincing in agony. As she recalled the moments from that night, she points out that a deputy is seen in the footage forcibly shoving her arms all the way up to her neck.
It was torture, she describes, so excruciating that she’s seen in the video lifting her back leg in pain.
The native of St. Petersburg told us she was in pain for hours that night while she waited to be released, continually asking for medical attention. When she got out, she maintains that her doctor told her she had severe damage to her rotator cuff.
She claims she could barely lift her arm or dial numbers on her cell phone. Months later, she says she’s still in pain and suffers from nerve damage.
“It was like I was a maimed animal or something, my arm and my hand were shaking because of what he had done to my limb,” she recalls.
Elysia showed us the paperwork where she filed a formal complaint against the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, hoping for results.
However, that never happened.
According to the letter from Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the narrative read, in part, “We share your concern, relative to the conduct of our members, and appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention. Although there was insufficient reason in this case to bring about disciplinary action against the accused members.”
Elysia is considering taking legal action against the sheriff’s office and the deputy involved. She explained how this has affected her life, leaving her on edge with nightmares.
In fact, she says she was warned by multiple people not to talk about it.
“They told me that I would be harassed if I spoke out about this. But, I knew I had to do the right thing. I had to talk about this. If anyone has a justification for that deputy and what he did to me, I want to hear it. I want to hear it, Melanie. I want to hear what that justification is,” she said.
8 On Your Side reached out to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for comment. However, we were told that the administration does not comment on open investigations.