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UF student, officer's daughter calls out Alachua County Sheriff’s Office

A UF student alleges that a case she and her parents were involved in was mishandled, and she’s turned to YouTube to tell her story.

Hope Stevens, a UF agricultural operations management freshman, posted a video Tuesday night regarding an incident that happened at her family’s home April 4. In the video filmed from her Buckman dorm room, she said her case was minimized by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office because her father, Todd Stevens, is an officer with the force.

Stevens, 19, said it all started when she went to her parents’ home in the 400 block of Southwest 117th Street. They were meeting to talk about school. She told her parents that classes weren’t going well, and maybe UF wasn’t the path for her.

In the video, she chokes up and begins sobbing as she tells her story.

Stevens said her parents told her she needed to talk to a counselor, and she agreed. But she realized her parents wouldn’t let her go back to her dorm room. She said she felt trapped and wanted to leave. After calling a friend to pick her up and walking toward the door, Stevens said her father grabbed her wrist, took her phone and yelled, “No, you’re not going anywhere.”

Her mother called 911 and told dispatch that her daughter was suicidal.

Her mom stood in the way, and Stevens tried to get around her. That’s when, she said, her father kneed her in the back and slammed her head into the door and wall. She said she passed out.

When an officer responded, she said he had her sit in the back of the patrol car for about a half an hour while he talked to her parents inside. Then he drove her to the end of the neighborhood to meet an ambulance. She said medical help should have been called immediately instead.

But the official ASO incident report paints a different picture.

The ASO officer who responded to the call wrote that “no battery occurred. Todd only restrained Hope because he believed she would hurt herself if he didn’t keep her inside,” according to the report.

When he let go, “she hesitated before purposely dropping herself on the ground and bumping her head on the tile. Hope laid on the ground silently initially in an attempt to appear that she was unconscious. When I called her bluff, Hope opened her eyes and began crying loudly again.”

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The case is being handled as a domestic disturbance, not domestic violence. ASO spokesman Art Forgey explained the difference lies in whether a crime occurred. Domestic violence incidents usually involve an arrest.

For a domestic disturbance, “typically they try to restore the peace, provide whatever services are necessary and move on. Each disturbance is going to be different. This is the outcome the deputy deemed to be the best course of action,” Forgey said.

Todd Stevens, a reserve deputy who was hired by ASO in November and is still in training, declined to comment.

Her mother declined to comment as well.

Hope said she still thinks the handling of the case was unjust.

“My dad isn’t being charged for grabbing me inappropriately,” she said.

Forgey said Stevens filed a complaint with ASO’s Office of Professionalism on Tuesday, and it will be investigated.

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 4/23/2014 under the headline "Officer’s daughter calls out ASO"]

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