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A Texas sheriff’s deputy is accused of carrying out half a dozen unauthorized strip searches on young women who crossed his path during routine traffic stops over the past month.
Floyd Berry allegedly forced at least six different women to undress during traffic stops in San Antonio between Nov. 24 to Dec. 4. Berry, 49, was booked on misdemeanor sexual harassment charges on Saturday, Dec. 7. He’s facing three counts of official oppression, and police said they expect more charges will be handed down soon.
Police say they began an internal investigation into Berry last week after two separate women contacted the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office of Internal Affairs to report the seasoned deputy.
The first unidentified victim told authorities she had been a passenger in a traffic stop that unfolded at a gas station north of San Antonio on Dec. 1. The woman told police Berry confined her to the backseat of his squad car and drove her to a “secluded and unlit location,” according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
“[She] removed her clothing exposing her unclothed body to Deputy Floyd Berry,” the affidavit stated.
The deputy supposedly then drove the woman back to the gas station where the traffic stop originated.
Days later, Berry allegedly pulled over a married couple and used a patrol car door to shield the woman’s husband from watching him search his wife. Once he obscured the husband’s view, Berry allegedly told the woman to “lift her bra and shake,” which he instructed her to do four separate times.
“It was not until [she] completely exposed her nipples, that [Berry] ceased his requests,” the arrest affidavit reads.
Police later uncovered four more alleged victims.
Another woman later told police she was a passenger during a traffic stop conducted by Berry on Dec. 4. She was arrested on two active felony warrants. While being transported to the magistrate’s office, Berry allegedly pulled over roughly a mile away from where the woman had been detained. She said she was instructed to remove her boots, socks and “her tight black dress.”
“[She] then pulled down her panties and lifted up her dress, which fully exposed her naked body,” police said. She claimed Berry flirted with her and later became visibly “sexually aroused.”
“I’m furious about it,” Sheriff Javier Salazar told Oxygen.com. “You’re out there and you’re supposed to be protecting and serving. You’re supposed to be making calls, and patrolling proactively, and instead you’re devoting a good majority of your off-duty time to victimizing people. I can’t stomach that.”
Salazar, a former internal affairs investigator, called the allegations against Berry “absolutely disgusting.” He suspects more strip search victims will emerge from the shadows as the investigation picks up speed.
“They’re still in the process of unravelling everything,” Salazar also said. “This case — it’s spiderwebs. One little lead spiders off into others and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Police later learned the Shell gas station in San Antonio’s north end was a hotspot for Berry to conduct traffic stops. CCTV footage from the service station showed that Berry had detained a handful of other women and also drove them away from the scene while leaving other potential suspects unattended.
In one case, Berry allegedly left the driver of a stolen car to his own devices while he drove the passenger of that car to a different location to strip search her.
“He actually took her away, about a quarter mile, half a mile away from the stolen car and left the car and the driver behind so that he could concentrate his efforts on her,” Salazar said. “If any criminal activity had been his priority he wouldn’t have left the stolen car and the driver back at the Shell station so that he could concentrate his efforts on this young lady.”
Berry’s alleged victims were often car passengers, police said, but authorities also noticed another pattern: the majority of them had broken the law.
“One of them was in a stolen car, another one had two felony warrants, another one had drug paraphernalia on her,” the Bexar County Sheriff added.
Salazar explained that Berry intentionally exploited and targeted women who were “on the other side of the law.”
“My belief is that these young ladies were specifically targeted because well, you know, who’s going to believe them?” he said. “These victims are not ones that are especially apt to come to police anyway.”
The sheriff urged other potential victims to come forward.
“We’re here to serve and we realize the damage that could have been done by a member of our agency,” he said. “We will take your claims seriously and we will do our best to hold this person accountable.”
Berry, a seasoned deputy, had worked as a jail detention officer in Bexar County since 2001, police said. He had been promoted to patrol duties in 2015. He was placed on administrative leave and served a proposed termination following his arrest.
Texas authorities and law enforcement experts alike noted that strip searches are rarely executed in the field.
“Generally strip searches are not conducted in the field; they’re conducted in a facility under supervision with reasonable suspicion that there’s weapons or contraband involved and it’s usually in a detention facility,” Robert Pusins, a former Fort Lauderdale police officer and police misconduct expert, told Oxygen.com. “For a field strip search, it is just completely inappropriate and is not consistent with best practices."
Strip searches, police said, are typically conducted prior to placing a potential suspect in a patrol car, not afterward — and definitely not after driving the suspect to a separate “unlit” or “secluded” location. Even then, it’s common practice for male officers to request a female deputy or officer to conduct a search of women suspects.
“There is no scenario where it’s OK for an officer to separate a woman from public view or companions, and then conduct an invasive search of her personal areas — no circumstances that could justify that,” Salazar said.
Berry has since posted a $45,000 bond and was released on December 8. No court date has been scheduled yet.
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