Last August, 40-year-old Robert Liese exited a local bar without paying for his drink and was subsequently arrested by Orlando police. While in a holding cell following his arrest, Liese, appearing inebriated, headbutted the holding cell’s window, damaging it. In the above-embedded raw video of the incident provided by WFTV, Orlando Police Department Officer Peter Delio, rather than simply charging Liese with an additional crime for destroying property, appears to respond by taking it upon himself to dish out a punishment instead, viciously kneeing Liese, who was bound by handcuffs, in the stomach. Following the incident, Liese was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen, which had to be removed.
William Ruffier, an attorney who is representing Liese in a federal excessive force lawsuit, noted that the MMA-style knee strike also damaged an artery and said in comments to WFTV, “He was bleeding internally and could have died.” According to The Orlando Sentinel, Liese was charged with and pleaded guilty to defrauding an innkeeper, criminal mischief, and resisting an officer without violence. Liese’s excessive force lawsuit seeks over $75,000 in damages.
After Liese headbutted his holding cell window, he said that he intended to sit down. “Let me help you,” said Officer Delio after he kneed Liese in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. Liese was then taken to another holding cell where he was bound by the feet. Said Officer Delio to Liese, “Understand if you stand up, you will fall, and we will not retrieve you.”
Liese languished in the cell for two more hours before Orlando police sought medical help for him. Liese’s attorney Ruffier said that an officer misled paramedics when they arrived and told them that Liese was suffering from chest pains and a head injury, drawing attention away from the stomach injury caused by the knee strike. Orlando police also told hospital staff that Liese sustained a chest injury while fighting police officers, which differs from what is seen in the footage of the incident.
The Orlando Sentinel notes that the City of Orlando was previously forced to pay a $15,000 settlement after Officer Peter Delio wrongfully arrested and seized the cellphone of a bystander who had stopped to record Delio after a suspect in his custody began calling for help.