Jan. 26–Jake typically doesn’t cause a stir while doing his work dispersing crowds in downtown Orlando.
That changed, though, after the police horse took a punch to the rear.
Orlando police say that happened early Saturday morning, when the horse — with an officer on top — was hit while trying to break up a crowd on South Orange Avenue near West Central Boulevard.
And it’s not the first attack on an OPD horse.
In this case, Sgt. Michael Massicotte was nearby and watched as a “combative” man — later identified as 30-year-old Cornell Shuford — approached the horse’s rear, an arrest report says.
Shuford raised his right arm and then “violently” pulled it back, preparing for a strike, the report states.
Massicotte tried to intervene, but the horse turned and Shuford finished his punch, the report states.
Jake got agitated and cumbersomely climbed onto a sidewalk and into a crowd of people at 2:30 a.m.
Amidst all the commotion, one of the horses in the mounted patrol unit then backed up onto an Orlando police corporal’s foot, causing some swelling in his toes.
His injuries weren’t serious and the horse was fine, but police said the incident could have been dangerous.
With the pedestrians around and Jake in a stumbling, agitated state, that punch could’ve seriously injured the officer, the horse, or an innocent bystander, Massicotte wrote in his report.
During the past few years, there have been several reports of people — typically outside bars downtown — getting aggressive with one of Orlando’spolice horses.
In 2013, a then 23-year-old Pedro Arzola was arrested on charges of doing the exact same thing to the police horse, Captain.
Police said Arzola was standing in a crowd near the same intersection where the incident happened on Saturday, when he ignored commands to clear out of the street.
The suspect punched Captain in the “rear flank,” an arrest report states.
Arzola was arrested on charges of battery on a police horse and resisting an officer. Court records show his case was referred to pre-trial diversion.
Orlando police Sgt. Wanda Ford said it’s best to re-think a match-up with a horse.
Not only because it’s illegal — and in some cases a felony charge — but because the animals are usually working and stirring them with a punch, for example, can cause them to go erratic.
“There are so many people downtown and the horse could trample on people,” she said. “It’s very dangerous due to the size of the horse.”
Orlando police’s Mounted Patrol Unit has a total of seven horses that mostly work crowd control downtown or at special events.
With the horses’ intimidating size, Ford said people usually “just walk right out of the way.”
And that’s probably for the best, she said.
Shuford, of Jacksonville, was released later Saturday from the Orange County Jail on bail.
The police report doesn’t mention why he allegedly threw a punch.
Shuford is facing charges of battery on a police horse and attempting to injure a police horse.
By Stephanie Allen, Orlando Sentinel
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