ORLANDO, Fla. —
An Orlando police officer accused of beating a teenager will go to trial Thursday on criminal charges.
Officer Dante Candelaria faces several charges for an incident with a 19-year-old Bryan Payne in February 2011. Video of the incident shows Candelaria beating the teen and throwing him against a wall.
WFTV has learned that charges against Candelaria have been upgraded because he rejected a plea deal. That means he is now charged with battery and false imprisonment with a weapon.
Payne said he was waiting for his girlfriend outside an Orange County Shool when Candelaria tossed the teenager and punched him in the moth several times for no apparent reason.
Payne said Candelaria then slammed him up against a brick wall and handcuffed him.
“I’m scared of this man,” Payne said.
If convicted, Candelaria faces 16 years in prison.
“I believe he would’ve got away with it had there not been no video that day. I believe that’s the only think holding him accountable for his actions. It has to stop. The police need to stop having that chest up or that one-up on society when they’re just like everyone else.”
Candelaria is no longer patrolling the streets, but he is still on the job working at the Orlando Police Department headquarters in property and evidence.
During depositions, Candelaria’s supervisor testified that Payne was a documented member of the gang Friends For Life or FFL. The supervisor said Candelaria, an officer in the gang unit, was trained to “react a lot quicker” because he’s been “shot at” and “received death threats” from suspects.
However, Payne denied being in a gang.
But WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said none of that matters. He said criminal charges against police officers are rare and jury convictions don’t come easy.
“We as citizens still want to support law enforcement,” Sheaffer said. “We really don’t want to believe that they act outside the scope of their authority or abuse their authority.”
Candelaria’s trial is expected to start Thursday morning.
The last Orlando police officer to be charged with a violent crime was in September 2010.
Brandon Loverde was accused of groping a nursing mother outside Club Firestone where he worked as an offduty security officer.
Laverde pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and he resigned from the department.