FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida hotel manager is questioning why a former police officer has not been arrested for punching and knocking out a valet parking attendant during a dispute over an $18 charge.

Ocean Sky Hotel & Resort front office manager Nigel Blair said Monday that it makes no sense that Fort Lauderdale police did not arrest John Kiernan, 37, of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, at the scene. Blair said that he has worked at hotels for 30 years and has seen officers arrest guests immediately for much less violent confrontations.

“I have seen them arrest people for just touching someone,” Blair said.

Police spokeswoman Detective Tracy Figone said Monday that the investigation remains open. She said the video wasn’t immediately available to officers and the lead officer did not know at the time Kiernan was a former police officer.

“The officer had no knowledge of what his past or present job was. It had absolutely nothing to do with this investigation,” she said.

Security video shows an animated Kiernan walking around his truck, where his wife and children are sitting, to within inches (centimeters) of valet Rodolfo Rodriguez, 28, who puts his hands in his pockets. They speak for several seconds when suddenly Kiernan punches Rodriguez in the jaw, knocking him out. With Rodriquez lying face down on the pavement, Kiernan then pins his arm behind his back until a woman intercedes. The video has no sound. Rodriguez was taken to a hospital for treatment and released.

Kiernan did not respond to a phone message and email sent to the gun store he owns. According to police records, he told Officer John Czech that Rodriguez said to him, “You’re just looking to fight.” Czech wrote that “Kiernan said his life experience taught him this was an aggressive statement and he chose to hit the guy first” though he saw no weapons.

Kiernan told WTVJ-TV, which first reported the confrontation, that he had been a police officer in Georgia for a decade before moving to Florida and that Rodriguez was rude and threatening and his training kicked in.

“I guess he finally got irritated and looked at me and said you are going to fight me,” Kiernan told the station. “Based on his body language and the way he spoke to me, I did feel he was going to go to physical contact. I didn’t know if he had a weapon on him. As soon as he said that, I struck him.”

Rodriguez did not immediately return a message left for him at the hotel. He told the station that Kiernan punched him “for no reason.”

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TERRY SPENCER
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