And Sgt. Jimmy Hightower, once a frontman for the agency through his high-profile gig as community policing leader, was transferred to night patrol in the Royal Palm Beach area for sucker-punching Deputy Jim Mackey.
Internal Affairs requested that the burly Hightower be punished with a five-day suspension. But an internal grievance panel lowered the punishment to just two days. Hightower remains eligible to make lieutenant in the near future!
PBSO Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw‘s second in command, said the grievance process in place decided Hightower’s fate.
“The panel made the decision to give him two days,” Gauger said. “I can’t comment on whether it’s fair or not.”
According to the Internal Affairs report of the incident, Hightower, Mackey, fellow deputy John DeLaura and two others were driving on a dark, desolate northwest Tennessee road after a hunting expedition Dec. 5, 2011 when they spotted a deer on the road.
According to the report Hightower, who had been drinking and was on the passenger’s seat, grabbed his rifle and told Mackey, who was sober and driving, to stop the SUV. Mackey refused. Shooting deer from a car is illegal in most states.
Hightower became irate, according to the paperwork, and took to arguing with Mackey who, at the time, was his direct subordinate in community policing.
Mackey eventually stopped the car and started walking to their hotel. That’s when Hightower jumped out of the car, sprinted to Mackey and slugged him at least twice. Mackey reported seeing stars and sustained a deep cut to his mouth. Their companions eventually peeled Hightower off Mackey.
As he bled profusely, the three sheriff’s employees then openly discussed lying about the incident to protect Hightower, according to the IA report. And Mackey alleged told hospital personnel in Tennessee who stitched him up that he fell in his hotel room.
In time Mackey, the report said, drove back to Palm Beach County and reported to assault to Internal Affairs. He then changed his mind about filing charges and drove back to Claiborne County, Tenn., to file a police complaint.
Hightower eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was sentenced to one year’s unsupervised probation.
At the grievance hearing earlier this fall, Mackey testified that five days wasn’t enough of a suspension and asked the panel to demote Hightower to deputy.
Neither Mackey nor Hightower commented.