Man beaten in transport van, police say - FOX 13 News

Man beaten in transport van, police say

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ST. PETE BEACH (FOX 13) -

Leonard Lanni was already in trouble with the law on Saturday, but investigators say it's what he did on the way to jail that's truly shocking.

Lanni, 36, was arrested at St. Pete Beach's Sirata Beach Resort for drunkenly trying to pick fights with customers and employees. But when he was arrested and picked up by a jail transport van, the officer says he then started beating up the only other inmate inside the vehicle, 59-year old Thomas Morrow.

"Mr. Morrow had been seated on a bench in the back of a van and he fell off the bench and onto the floor. When he fell on the bench and onto the floor is when Lanni began kicking him," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday.

Morrow had been found drunk by the Treasure Island Police earlier that night and was taken into custody to sober up under the state's Marchman Act.

Sheriff Gualtieri says Morrow was too drunk to do anything but take the blows.

"He couldn't even defend himself or fight back. He was totally helpless and this guy just pummeled him," he said.

The transport officer heard the scuffle and saw what was happening over a streaming security camera in the van. He turned into an Ulmerton Road bank where two deputies were pulled over.

"He pulled right into that parking lot and told deputies he needed help. The deputies and officer opened the back compartment to the van and pulled the subjects out," Gualtieri said.

It was almost too late. Morrow suffered fractured ribs, cuts to the face, and a ruptured spleen. He's now fighting for his life at Bayfront Medical Center.

"It's just one of those things that happens. It's very unfortunate. I can tell you we've been doing transports for the different police departments in the county now for the last three years, we've never had an incident like this," Gualtieri said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office actually uses an outside company to transport inmates called G4S Secure Solutions. Right now, Sheriff Gualtieri says it appears that the security officer did everything right. Both men were in restraints, but there was enough slack in the ankle shackles to allow Lanni to kick the other inmate.

Still, the Pinellas County Sheriff's office is reviewing the incident. Lanni is being held at the Pinellas County Jail on charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated battery.

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