Family wants harsher discipline for FMPD officers after poor conduct

Reporter: Peter Fleischer Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

Update: Investigative Reporter Peter Fleischer attended the Fort Myers Police Citizen’s Review Board meeting on Tuesday, April 11. The board is still re-evaluating materials related to Johanna Lagrange’s complaint, and the case was not addressed. WINK News will attend May’s review board meeting and provide any new information as it becomes available. 

Attacked in her own neighborhood, a Southwest Florida woman desperately dialed 911. But instead of feeling safe, her experience left her angry and scared.

Johanna Lagrange has lived in her picturesque neighborhood in Fort Myers for 15 years, running the same route every morning. Nothing like this had ever happened.

It was June 2022. Lagrange was out just after 5 a.m. when she jogged past a broken-down car with no lights on. Two people were sitting near the car. She says what happened next changed her life.

“I said, ‘Your lights aren’t on,’ and kept running,” Lagrange explains. “I heard [the woman sitting near the car] screaming. I turned around, and she shoved me to the ground.”

Lagrange called 911 at 5:18 a.m., and police arrived minutes later. Fort Myers police 911 audio, body camera footage and documents all tell the same story. Lagrange told officers she had been shoved down and pictures from that day show scrapes and scratches on her hands.

It wasn’t a bloody, violent attack, but still an attack.

“You never realize the terror and how scared you are when there’s someone in your face,” Lagrange admits. And yet, she feels it was what happened next that hurt worst of all.

Fort Myers Police Department records show the first to respond to the scene were trainee Officer Cheyenne Krolczyk and training Officer Matthew Spencer. Their conduct, and the way they handled the case, left Lagrange appalled.

Officer Cheyenne Krolczyk and training Officer Matthew Spencer. (CREDIT: Fort Myers Police Department)

“It was one of the hardest moments of my life,” Lagrange admits. “[The two of them] were very rude to me, very short to me. I heard them laughing with my attacker.”

According to body camera footage from the scene, less than a minute after approaching Lagrange, Officer Spencer appears to roll his eyes as she cries.

At 5:30 a.m., just 12 minutes after Lagrange called for help, officers can be seen and heard on body camera footage laughing with the suspects. And that wasn’t all.

At 5:33 a.m., body camera footage shows the following exchange:

Suspect: “I’m not sorry. F*** that bitch.”

Unknown FMPD officer: “I can’t disagree with you.”

Less than 20 minutes later, a similar exchange can be seen and heard.

Suspect: “That lady is a f***ng bitch and she can f*** off!”

Unknown FMPD officer: “As much as I tend to agree with you…”

Lagrange was hurt after watching the footage, shaking her head and admitting: “I’m devastated that Fort Myers police wasn’t there to protect me… Justice was just not done.”

The issues didn’t stop with unprofessional conduct. Lagrange was forced to repeat her story numerous times at the scene, so she was shocked when Officers Spencer and Krolczyk published the offense report with several errors.

The report claimed Lagrange told “conflicting stories” and said, “The suspects did not look like they belonged in this neighborhood…”

“They actually put words into my mouth that I didn’t even closely say,” Lagrange says, frustrated. “But it helped their report.”

Lagrange and her family—including multiple loved ones who work in law enforcement at a different agency—filed a complaint with FMPD, forcing the police to launch an internal investigation.

Documents show Internal Affairs Commander Lesa Breneman found several issues in the initial report. Her review of the body camera footage showed “no evidence” that Lagrange told conflicting stories and “no evidence” that Lagrange made comments about the suspects “not belonging” in her neighborhood.

“It helped them paint the picture that I was this person jogging and these poor people were broken down on the side of the road,” Lagrange says. “I just don’t know why.”

She says discipline handed down from interim police Chief Randall Pepitone doesn’t reflect Lagrange’s frustration.

Internal affairs paperwork shows Officer Spencer was reprimanded for “failure to conduct a proper preliminary investigation” and “failure to correct his trainee adequately.” As a result, he was ordered counseling.

Krolczyk was also punished for “rude and unprofessional behavior,” “failure to activate body cam and microphone” and “failure to conduct a proper preliminary investigation.” She was given counseling and retraining.

Lagrange and her family spoke at last month’s Fort Myers police citizen’s review board meeting, desperate for the board to reconsider harsher discipline.

One family member with decades of law enforcement experience told the board angrily: “I don’t understand how this interim chief could think this was even close to adequate discipline for these officers… The reporting, and I’m sure you read them, are lies.”

“They should not be police officers. They should not have that opportunity,” Lagrange tells WINK News. “That badge doesn’t give you honesty and integrity.”

The citizen’s review board agreed to review the case’s facts and all body camera footage. Lagrange says she wants to prevent someone else from having the same experience.

“You don’t attack my citizens. That’s how we need to feel in the city of Fort Myers,” she says. “It’s a great community! None of this should have happened.”

WINK requested interviews with Fort Myers police and the officers involved. A department rep said they have no comment at this time.

The suspect, in this case, was found not guilty by a jury—the family believes issues with FMPD contributed to that verdict.

The next police citizen’s review board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11. WINK News will have an update on this story after.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.