Breaking News
More () »

Polk prosecutors drop drug charges against Lakeland man in case highlighted by 10 Tampa Bay

Joshua Chatmon said he is now considering taking civil action against Lakeland Police Department for what he feels was a violation of his rights.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Prosecutors in Polk County have dropped drug charges against a Lakeland man who questioned the honesty of the police officers who arrested him.

“I just want a sense of peace, honestly," 32-year-old Joshua Chatmon said.

Chatmon says he’s relieved the charges against him have been dropped according to a letter dated Nov. 23 from the Polk State Attorney’s Office.

"It’s been traumatizing. I’ve been going through so many trials and tribulations," Chatmon said. "I’ve got kids. Small kids. They’ve been affected by this situation. My family. It’s been hard."

While the letter vaguely lists the reason for dismissing the charges as being based on "facts and circumstances," Chatmon believes there’s another reason.

In August, 10 Tampa Bay shared what appeared to be several inconsistencies between the deposition given by Lakeland Police Officer Jason McCain in the case and doorbell video taken the day of Chatmon’s arrest in March.

Among other issues, a search of Chatmon's car was not part of the police report.

An alleged confession was not recorded by police although they said it took place during questioning at the police station.

A timeline of other events also didn’t match what can be seen on camera, including police clearly taking the suspect car with them when they left – although McCain said he remembered them leaving it at the scene.

"It’s about accountability and the need for transparency when it comes to officers and how they’re dealing with citizens," Community Activist Pastor Clayton Cowart said.

Cowart believes had it not been for the video, things would have likely turned out very differently.

"I wondered how many people this might have happened to that did not have it on camera," Cowart said. "That did not have something to say this is not what happened."

We asked both the state attorney’s office and Lakeland Police for more details regarding a public complaint investigation into this case.

Lakeland Police Department said the internal investigation is still open and declined comment as a matter of policy.

The State Attorney’s office said charges were dropped since the video shows Chatmon was not in possession of the marijuana nor were his fingerprints on it.

An email statement from Assistant State Attorney Jacob Orr reads:

"Joshua Chatmon was found by Lakeland police officers in a vehicle with plastic baggies of marijuana in the backseat. Subsequent to the filing of the case, the defense provided a video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera. The video showed a red car pull into the parking spot and showed Mr. Chatmon enter the passenger side. Chatmon was not carrying the marijuana. Approximately 1 minute later, Lakeland police officers approach the car. The video indicates that the driver was in possession of the marijuana, not Chatmon. To be sure, the State requested law enforcement analyze the baggies for fingerprints. Chatmon’s fingerprints were not identified. The case against Chatmon was dismissed. The driver’s probation was violated."

Chatmon said he is now considering taking civil action against Lakeland Police Department for what he feels was a violation of his rights.

"They got – there’s a lot of policies that they have to change," he said. "They have to."

"This is a way of saying this can’t happen. This can’t happen," Cowart said, "And I think it’s necessary."

Before You Leave, Check This Out