Family wants deputy fired

"He brutalized my son," said construction company owner James Terino, his son Troy at his side. Law enforcement officers "can't manhandle people and think they can get away with it," the father said.

Published May 15, 2007

TAMPA - In 15 1/2 years as a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, Arturo Peralta has received three written reprimands and three suspensions totaling 51 days.

He pushed a fellow deputy, harassed and falsely arrested a man over a personal vendetta and stunned a handcuffed middle school student with a Taser.

Calling his disciplinary record unprecedented, a sheriff's committee suggested two years ago that Peralta be fired if he broke the rules again.

On Monday, a Tampa family said that time has come.

Troy Terino, an 18-year-old with a paralyzed arm, recently beat the rap on arrests for battery on a law enforcement officer and obstruction. Peralta accused the teen of hitting him. Terino said it was the other way around.

"He brutalized my son, " said construction company owner James Terino, his son at his side. Law enforcement officers "can't manhandle people and think they can get away with it, " the father said.

Sheriff's spokesman Debbie Carter, annoyed that the family took its concerns to the media instead of the agency, said "we don't have a comment."

A message left for Peralta at work Monday was not returned.

The family's story

Accompanied by attorney Steve Romine, the Terinos told their story in the plush comfort of a downtown Tampa law office. But the events of Nov. 30 still visibly upset father and son.

Peralta, 38, stopped Troy Terino and two teenage male relatives just after 3 p.m. on a grassy patch outside the Canterbury subdivision on Gunn Highway. One of the boys carried a hammer that they had used to put up a sign about Troy's stolen four-wheeler. They had also repaired a broken fence.

In his report, Peralta noted "suspicious activity." He wanted to know why the boys weren't in school. Troy, a business student at Hillsborough Community College, said they had all graduated from high school.

He told the deputy they were on their family's 4-acre property. Peralta didn't believe him.

Peralta wrote that Troy grew "confrontational and argumentative." The teen tried to walk away. Peralta stopped him.

As Peralta called for backup, Troy called his father. James Terino could sense the anxiousness in his son's voice. Terino had gotten a scary call about his son three years before. At age 15, Troy was in a near-fatal dirt bike accident. It paralyzed his arm, damaged his heart, cracked his skull, broke his cheekbones and jaw.

Troy said Peralta refused to speak with his father, knocked the phone to the ground and hit him twice in the chest. The deputy wrote that Troy, whose right arm was in a sling, hit the deputy in the chest.

With a cell phone, Troy's teenage nephew snapped a picture of the deputy holding Troy prostrate over a patrol motorcycle.

Prosecutors dropped the deputy's original charge of battery on a law enforcement officer to obstructing without violence. County Judge Elizabeth Rice dismissed the case on May 8, agreeing with attorney Romine that the deputy had no lawful reason to detain the boys.

Deputy is respected

The Terinos are considering all their legal options, Romine said.

Peralta's history at the Sheriff's Office is a mixed bag. Hired in October 1991, he has earned commendations for successfully negotiating with an emotionally disturbed gunman, helping fellow deputies save a woman from a car fire and pitching in on cases that required a Spanish speaker.

When he faced a 30-day suspension in 1999 for pushing and cursing another deputy, nine colleagues wrote letters in support of giving Peralta a second chance.

He came close to losing his job in 2001. An internal investigation determined that Peralta left his Carrollwood-vicinity patrol area to drive to the Crazy Buffet restaurant inside city limits after his wife reporting seeing a man who had jilted their family member at the altar years earlier.

Peralta received a 20-day suspension for arresting the man on a suspended license violation even though he hadn't seen the man drive. Before he let the man go, Peralta criticized him in front of potential business partners.

He got a one-day suspension in 2005 for an aggressive encounter with colleagues. Col. David Parrish, the disciplinary review board chairman, said longer suspensions had not worked.

"Consequently, " Parrish wrote in a May 19, 2005, memo, "the Disciplinary Review Board recommends that Deputy Peralta be placed on notice that any sustained violation of Sheriff's Office rules in the future will result in his dismissal."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.