OPD Sergeant resigns in lieu of termination

Sgt. Freeman captured on body cam footage at Oct 31, 2023 incident.

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Posted March 14, 2024 | By Caroline Brauchler

In his more than 10 years with the Ocala Police Department, Sgt. Horace “Lonnie” Freeman developed a troubling habit of failing to turn on his body camera while interacting with the public. But it would be Freeman’s actions while breaking up a neighborhood dispute on Halloween last year that would lead to the end of his employment at OPD.

During Freeman’s decade-long tenure with OPD, he earned him both commendation and promotion, according to his personnel file. But the record also shows his history of dishonesty has led the Fifth Circuit State Attorney’s Office to restrict Freeman from testifying in court.

Freeman submitted a letter on Jan. 4, 2024, notifying OPD Chief Mike Balken of his retirement, effectively resigning rather than being terminated from his position as sergeant.

The “Gazette” reached out to Balken and OPD spokesperson Jeffery Walczak about Freeman’s resignation and his disciplinary history but has received no response. Attempts to speak with Freeman also have been unsuccessful.


Read Freeman’s complete disciplinary history below.

April 14, 2016

Freeman responded to The Vines psychiatric facility to meet with a sergeant and another officer in regard to a patient who was admitted to the hospital voluntarily.

Upon his arrival, Freeman asked the other officer there over the radio “if he could walk the subject out to him, or if (Freeman) needed to do that for him, too,” according to a memorandum written by Sgt. Eric Hooper.

When explaining the options for the citizen to take, Freeman said, “You can either be a man or be a dumbass, one of the two,” according to the memorandum.

Freeman received a written reprimand for violating two policies: one for making derogatory or offensive remarks toward any citizen or fellow law enforcement member; and the other for failing to treat superior officers, subordinates, associates and citizens with respect.


Aug. 31, 2017

Freeman responded to a scene and arrested a suspect for aggravated stalking and criminal mischief. The suspect said later that during the transport to the Marion County Jail, Freeman said several racially charged comments to him.

Freeman denied this, saying instead that the suspect was directing derogatory comments toward him. No footage exists of this incident, even though Freeman claimed to have turned on his body camera. Because of the lack of evidence, this accusation against Freeman was dropped.

Freeman was also accused of disposing of the suspect’s GPS monitoring device by separating the cellphone-style belt transmitter and electronic ankle bracelet during apprehension. The suspect claimed that at some point during his altercation with the police, the belt transmitter and ankle bracelet were separated. While Freeman transported the man to the jail, the device was ringing to notify that the devices were separated, which the suspect claimed Freeman ignored.

“How the device actually came to be missing remains in question; however, it is clear that Officer Freeman failed to take necessary precautions to ensure that the complainant’s property was being considered,” according to the panel report from the disposition.

The panel found this accusation to be sustained, in addition to the fact that Freeman did not download any videos related to the incident from his body camera. Freeman received a 30-hour suspension based on the findings of this panel.


Nov. 7, 2017

Freeman arrived on a scene to assist with a suspect who was intoxicated.

The suspect was wearing no pants, so Freeman told the man to put his pants on, taunting him by saying, “No one wants to look at that little thing.” The suspect responded by calling Freeman derogatory names, and rather than deescalate the situation, Freeman continued to taunt him. Freeman ended up pushing the suspect against a wall, putting his hand around the suspect’s throat.

When interacting with the suspect, Freeman was described as being impatient and unnecessarily escalating the situation. “He ignored fundamental officer safety practices and appeared to taunt the subject into compliance instead of using many other techniques,” said Lt. C. Eades in a memorandum.

Freeman was accused of making derogatory or offensive remarks to the citizen and committing unsatisfactory actions that could bring disrepute on or discredit OPD.

The panel found in January of 2018 that Freeman escalated the situation, and that this use of force would not have been necessary if Freeman had approached the situation differently. The other accusation was that Freeman did not document this interaction properly, omitting details about putting his hand on the suspect’s neck.

OPD Chief Mike Balken, who was then a major in the agency, overruled the panel’s findings that verified both accusations and instead imposed a written reprimand for Freeman on Jan. 16, 2018 for the second accusation only.


July 12, 2018

Freeman was suspended for committing unsatisfactory actions that could bring disrepute on or discredit OPD. The actions were related to warrant procedures. No other information about this incident was made available in Freeman’s file from OPD.

He was suspended for 30 hours without pay.


Aug. 28, 2019

Freeman responded to a call regarding two people at a SunTran bus station, one of whom appeared intoxicated and had fallen asleep and the other was attempting to sleep underneath the shelter. Freeman approached the man who he believed to be intoxicated who had fallen asleep on the bench, and immediately asked him, “Do you want to get up or do you want to go to jail?” according to a panel’s findings.

The suspect mumbled something back to Freeman and upon not continuing to respond, Freeman said, “Jail it is.” Freeman asked the man for his identification and told him to clean up the area, and the suspect replied, “Take me to jail.” When Freeman asked him to turn around to be handcuffed, the man asked what he was being charged with, to which Freeman said open lodging and disorderly intoxication.

In the arrest report, Freeman said the man directed expletives and a derogatory term toward him before Freeman made the arrest, but the comments cannot be heard in the body camera footage from before the man was handcuffed.

While placing the man in handcuffs, Freeman claimed the man “bucked” him, so Freeman told him “If you buck me again, I’m gonna drop you on the ground and I’m going to bust your head wide open,” according to the panel findings. The man then made the derogatory comments toward Freeman, who then took the handcuffed man to the ground.

Freeman did not charge the suspect with open lodging but did charge him with disorderly intoxication. While the man was intoxicated, he was not endangering the safety of another person or causing a disturbance, so there was no probable cause for Freeman to have made the arrest.

Because of this incident, Freeman was accused of falsifying a police report and probable cause affidavit, violating the use of force policy, being untruthful, and making an unlawful arrest.

An internal affairs investigation was opened to determine whether these accusations against Freeman were true.


Sept. 8, 2019

Post to Ocala Police Department Facebook page.

While an internal affairs investigation over the August incident involving the intoxicated man was ongoing, Freeman was promoted to the rank of sergeant.


Oct. 31, 2019

The internal affairs investigation into the incident from August concluded, determining that all four accusations against Freeman were true. Regardless of this, a command-level decision was made to override three out of the four accusations.

Freeman was suspended for 50 hours without pay, effective Dec. 2, 2019.


June 10, 2022

Following the completion of the internal affairs investigation that confirmed the four allegations of misconduct relating to untruthfulness and falsification of records, State Attorney Bill Gladson issued a Brady notice against Freeman.

A Giglio, or Brady list, compiles the names of law enforcement members who have had incidents with untruthfulness, notifying prosecutors of their involvement and recommending their witness testimony not be used in a court of law.

Upon his placement on the list, Freeman was recommended not to be used as a witness in any cases unless his testimony could be verified by another officer, witness or by video footage, due to his history of dishonesty.

Regardless of the command decision to override three out of the four sustained allegations from the internal affairs investigation against Freeman, Gladson issued the Brady notice.

Including Freeman, 32 law enforcement officers in Marion County have been issued Brady notices.


Oct. 22, 2022

Freeman conducted a traffic stop while on light-duty in an unmarked patrol vehicle. Protocol for restricted duty indicates that officers cannot take any law enforcement action unless the situation is life-threatening. Freeman was issued a written reprimand for the incident.


Oct. 31, 2023

Freeman responded to a call at the Berkely Pointe Apartment Complex with a group of other officers. Several subjects were engaged in a verbal altercation, and eventually a large crowd gathered.

Freeman made contact with a juvenile who was walking away from the crowd. He said to the boy, “Are you still mad at me, for the me and your old lady thing?” The comment angered the boy, and he turned around and approached Freeman “in an aggressive manner.”

Rather than deescalating the situation, Freeman told the boy repeatedly to “step off” while other citizens held the boy back.

The incident was captured on the other officers’ body cameras as Freeman failed to turn on his body camera throughout the duration of the incident. He also conducted a traffic stop after this incident and did not turn on his body camera for that, either.

Freeman’s actions were described as “a deliberate attempt to incite an already volatile situation” in a memorandum.

When confronted about his misconduct, Freeman said the situation was “Corey Taylor all over again,” referencing a former OPD major who resigned after an investigation into accusations of dishonesty.

In a discipline memo dated Dec. 21, 2023, Major Angy Scroble recommended that Freeman be demoted as sergeant. In a handwritten note to the same memo dated Jan. 4, Balken wrote “over-ruled” and issued a new memorandum indicating that Freeman would be terminated.

Balken wrote in the Jan. 4 memo, “Your actions during this incident appeared to be a deliberate attempt to incite an already volatile situation and as such are simply unacceptable for any member of the Ocala Police Department. You hold a leadership role within our organization and made these statements in the presence of officers you are charged with supervising. It is my belief that this only compounds the issue at hand and seriously compromises your ability to lead, manage, and supervise in a manner that is consistent with my expectations.”

Freeman sent an email the same day resigning, and personnel records reflect he was entitled to all payouts.

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