I-TEAM: Aurora police officer arrested after alleged road rage incident in Florida

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AURORA, Ohio — The Aurora police chief confirms to the FOX 8 I-TEAM that one of the officers from his department is in custody in Lee County, Florida after being arrested in an alleged road rage incident.

Chief Brian Byard said he was contacted by authorities with the Florida Highway Patrol saying that around 10:45 Saturday morning they arrested Aurora Officer Joseph LaPerna.

“We have been in contact with the Florida Highway Patrol and were advised of the criminal charges associated with the arrest of Officer Joe LaPerna,” Byard said in a release sent to FOX 8. “After consulting with the law director, it was decided that Officer LaPerna would be placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. Once Officer LaPerna’s Florida case has been adjudicated, the City of Aurora will make a determination on the appropriate course of action regarding Joe LaPerna and his status as it relates to the Aurora Police Department.”

Laperna, 48, has been with the department for about 20 years.

According to a release from the Patrol, troopers responded to a highway violence incident on southbound I-75.

“Through the course of the resulting investigation, troopers determined that LaPerna was driving a 2018 Chevrolet near a 2018 Toyota Corolla on southbound I-75. LaPerna and the occupants of the Toyota became involved in a road rage incident,” the release states. “During the incident, LaPerna brandished a firearm (Glock 43) at the occupants of the Toyota. Laperna was stopped by responding troopers and Collier County Deputies on Pine Ridge Road near Seagate Drive in Naples. LaPerna was placed under arrest for aggravated assault and improper exhibit of a firearm and transported to the Lee County Jail.”

The I-TEAM obtained LaPerna’s personnel file after filing a public record’s request.

According to his file, he was disciplined several time in the past, including being fired in
May 2006 after an off duty road rage incident involving himself and a resident.

“The union (OPBA) fought the termination and Officer LaPerna was reinstated after an arbitrator granted LaPerna his job back, which did not include back pay or benefits for his time off,” the chief stated. “ As a conditional requirement of his return to work Officer LaPerna was required to undergo a fitness for duty examination and counseling for anger management and placed on a one year last chance agreement.”

There were several other disciplines including two in 2017. In one LaPerna was written up for rude and discourteous behavior toward a resident. As a result he was sent home for the day and required to complete several classes which were “Professional Policing and the Public,” “Positive Ways to be Successful,” “Overall Job Preparedness,” Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy” and “Blue Courage”.

In the other incident, occuring December 2017,  LaPerna was disciplined and required to forfeit holiday pay as a result of poor decision making involving a traffic stop with an elderly resident.

LaPerna’s file also shows that in September 2010 he was recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for his efforts in removing impaired drivers from the roadway and in 2015 Officer LaPerna was recognized by MADD for his efforts in arresting OVI Offenders.

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