New lawsuit against fired Gardens police officer, made infamous by viral 'unhinged cop' video (2024)

The lawsuit against ex-officer Bethany Guerriero is not her first.

Hannah PhillipsPalm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH — A federal lawsuit promises more trouble for Bethany Guerriero, the former Palm Beach Gardens police officer who was fired last year after a video of her holding a man at gunpoint went viral.

The video captured the bizarre arrest of Ryan Gould, who called 911 to report a crime but found himself accused of one instead. When asked why she aimed her gun and handcuffed him, Guerriero responded with snark and deflection.

“Shut your mouth,” she told Gould. "I've been here for 20 years, punk. I'm in charge. Not you."

Gould sued Guerriero and a younger officer who helped facilitate what his attorneys have labeled as Fourth Amendment violations: excessive use of force, unreasonable search and seizure and unjustified arrest. He demanded a jury trial Wednesday and is seeking an unspecified amount in damages to account for the humiliation, pain, suffering and lost wages he says he experienced during and after his arrest on May 9.

"Since the incident, Gould has had increased anxiety and fear," wrote attorney James Slater. He added that Gould "generally avoids public outings" and relocated to Illinois from Florida due, in part, to the incident.

Guerriero, who does not yet have an attorney listed, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Gould, arrested without cause, became a Palm Beach Gardens gadfly

This month's lawsuit is the latest of several attempts by 32-year-old Gould to hold his arresting officers accountable. His first attempt, several complaints filed with Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, spawned a monthslong internal-affairs investigation. His second attempt ensured that Guerriero's behavior was scrutinized online, too.

Gould posted a video of his arrest to YouTube, along with subsequent videos of his attempts to speak with Chief of Police Clinton Shannon about his arrest. One video shows officers forcibly removing him from the Palm Beach Gardens police headquarters after Gould told the chief to "shut the (expletive) up."

The YouTube channel LackLuster, which features videos of police misconduct, shared Gould's story to an audience of more than 1 million viewers in June. The city fired Guerriero two months later for violating several department policies, noting in its records that the filmed encounter brought "disrepute to the department on a large scale."

"Being in this job as long as we all have — we have moments throughout our careers that weren't our best," Guerriero told a fellow officer, according to an agency report. "Was it my finest hour? Absolutely not."

Palm Beach Garden's officer's behavior deemed concerning by officers and online viewers alike

City officials did not elaborate on the incident that broughtGuerriero's 19-year careerto an end, but a 126-page investigative report released in September contained interviews with several colleagues who witnessed her behavior at the Sabal Ridge apartment complex May 9.

Many described an officer who was "blinded" by rage, who persuaded them that Gould committed a crime only she had seen.Guerriero told her companions that he was hostile, "possibly drugged" and that he kept reaching for his pockets despite her commands to stop — all of which was refuted by footage from the officer's body-worn camera and the apartment's surveillance camera.

In the video, Guerriero ignored Gould's insistence that he was a victim, not a suspect, and seemed to grow angrier the more he challenged her.

More: Report offers details on firing of Palm Beach Gardens officer who held man at gunpoint

"She's literally grimacing with her hands clutched," Sgt. Marc Glass told the officer who led the internal-affairs investigation. "She has this scowl, tightened lips, the whole bit. Staring at him, Mr. Gould. She's just kind of moving back and forth with her hands."

Sgt. Dennis Beath told the investigator he had "never seen someone act like that."

Ousted police officer had history of policy violations

Guerriero earned more than $101,000 annually by the end of her 19-year career, according to her personnel file. She belonged to the department's hostage-negotiation team and was praised in several employee reviews for her composure during stressful situations.

One supervisor wrote that she was "usually hand-picked to handle incidents which involve subjects who are suicidal and confrontational."

Nevertheless, several violations of department policy preceded her last one: accessing a restricted database to snoop on the partner of her former wife,a Delray Beach police officer;leaving her AR-15 rifle inside her patrol car, which was burglarized; and displaying an "instigative behavior" toward a man she arrested in 2019.

Gould's lawsuit against Guerriero isn't her first, either. In 2018, a woman named Zsofia Ruha accused the officer of arresting her "within a matter of two seconds" and failing to say why she had done so.

"Every private citizen's safety and life is in danger who comes across officer Guerriero," Ruha wrote to the judge. She represented herself in lieu of an attorney.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed the case in 2020.

Hannah Phillips covers criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her athphillips@pbpost.com.Help support our journalism andsubscribe today.

New lawsuit against fired Gardens police officer, made infamous by viral 'unhinged cop' video (2024)
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