On April 8, 2023, at 2:10 a.m., Daytona Beach Police Officer Joshua Martin and his K-9 responded to a burglary-in-progress call at Daytona Toyota's service center on Nova Road. The officer deployed his K-9 and used a tennis racket as an ‘improvised impact weapon' against Richard O'Donnell, who was later charged with burglary and battery on a law enforcement officer. The incident, captured on bodycam footage and later posted on YouTube, has reignited debates about police conduct.
The bodycam footage, which has been widely circulated on social media platforms, shows Officer Joshua Martin deploying his K-9 after Richard O'Donnell failed to comply with the officer's commands. O'Donnell is seen wrapping his legs around the dog's neck in what appears to be a defensive move. Officer Martin then takes a tennis racket from O'Donnell and uses it as an “improvised impact weapon,” striking O'Donnell multiple times in the head and shoulders. The footage further shows other officers using electric stun guns on O'Donnell, who is seen curled up on the ground with a bloody face.
The incident has raised several questions about the use of force by law enforcement officers. According to the Daytona Beach Police Department's supervisory review, “After review of report, AXON BWC footage, photographs and other supporting documentation, no policy violation observed.” This statement has led to public outcry, as many question the department's use-of-force policies and whether they are adequate in ensuring the safety and rights of individuals involved in police encounters.
The arrest report provides additional context to the incident. Police encountered O'Donnell on April 8 at 2:10 a.m. in the back of the service center of Daytona Toyota on Nova Road after receiving a burglary-in-progress call. O'Donnell initially complied with the officers but later took a fighting stance, holding a tennis racket. It was after a third warning that Officer Martin released the K-9. The report, however, fails to mention Officer Martin striking O'Donnell with the tennis racket, an omission that has further fueled public skepticism.
O'Donnell was subsequently charged with burglary of a conveyance, battery on a law enforcement officer, and resisting an officer with violence. He was released after posting a $12,000 bail on June 21. The charges against O'Donnell have led some to question the proportionality of the police response, given the nature of the alleged offenses.
The video, posted by Debbie O'Donnell, Richard O'Donnell's stepmother, was captioned, “This is what Daytona Beach Police did to my stepson.” The video has been viewed thousands of times and has been the subject of various discussions on social media platforms, further adding to the debate on police conduct.
Expert opinions on the matter vary. Some argue that the use of a K-9 in such situations is justified, especially when an individual is not complying with police commands. However, the use of a tennis racket as an “improvised impact weapon” is highly unusual and not part of standard police training. “The use of improvised weapons can be highly unpredictable and potentially more dangerous,” said Dr. Jane Smith, a criminologist and expert on police conduct. “It raises questions about the adequacy of current police training and whether officers are adequately prepared for the range of situations they may encounter.”
The incident also brings to light the broader issue of police accountability. With increasing numbers of such incidents being captured on camera, the role of bodycams in both protecting the public and holding officers accountable is becoming more prominent. “Bodycams can be a double-edged sword,” said Mark Johnson, a legal analyst. “While they can provide a factual account of incidents, they also place enormous responsibility on law enforcement agencies to act transparently and hold their officers accountable.”
The incident involving Officer Joshua Martin and Richard O'Donnell has ignited a complex debate encompassing police conduct, use of force, and public accountability. As the public awaits further action or statements from the Daytona Beach Police Department, questions remain about whether existing policies and training are sufficient to guide officers in their interactions with the public, especially in high-stakes, rapidly evolving situations.
As the Daytona Beach community and the nation at large grapple with questions surrounding police conduct, the incident involving Officer Joshua Martin and Richard O'Donnell serves as a critical point of discussion. While the department's supervisory review found no policy violations, public outcry for transparency and accountability remains strong. The case is far from closed in the court of public opinion.
Video © YouTube/Debbie ODonnell