An Aurora police officer who brandished a pistol at a motorist while off duty in south Florida has been fired.
Joseph LaPerna, 49, pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor charge of improperly exhibiting a dangerous weapon, a first-degree misdemeanor, according to court records in Lee County, Florida, where the county seat is Fort Myers.
LaPerna was sentenced to 100 hours of community service or a $1,000 fine, a $525 fine, and ordered to pay court costs of $270. Also, he must surrender his firearms and must attend anger management classes. He also cannot have contact with the two other people involved in the incident.
LaPerna’s attorney did not wish to comment on the case.
In a termination letter dated Wednesday from Aurora Police Chief Bryan Byard to LaPerna, the chief states LaPerna violated three of the police department’s rules of conduct, a section of the Aurora Police Patrolmen’s Contract regarding use of force and weapons and two of the department’s standard operating procedures relating to the use of a personal firearm.
Code of conduct sections Byard said were violated include a section requiring members to maintain a positive public image, a prohibition against committing unsafe acts and a requirement to obey the law.
The chief also said that the city has been informed that LaPerna’s use of the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) has been suspended.
Byard outlined 15 incidents in which LaPerna had been disciplined since 2004.
Eight of the incidents took place since 2015: three times for driving at speeds in excess of 90 mph, twice for absenteeism, once for not having his body microphone off during an incident where he was accused of rude behavior, another time for "rude, disrespectful behavior" to a resident and another incident where he was suspended for two days and required to attend three days of training "in an effort to correct your behavior."
"Your serious misconduct in this incident and your past disciplinary record with this department warrants Termination for Cause based on the foregoing, therefore, you are being terminated effective immediately," Byard wrote.
He is no longer allowed to be in the Aurora Police Department or any City of Aurora property without permission from the police department.
He is able to appeal the decision, but it is not clear if he will.
LaPerna was arrested on a felony aggravated assault and a misdemeanor weapons charge by the Florida Highway Patrol on March 3 after he allegedly brandished a Glock 43 at a Toyota while headed south towards Naples, Fla. on Interstate 75. A felony charge against LaPerna was later dropped.
LaPerna has been on unpaid leave since his arrest.
According to records obtained by the Record-Courier, LaPerna was fired from his job in 2006 after an off-duty incident. However, the police union fought the termination and LaPerna was reinstated.
According to the city’s reports from an investigation of the 2006 incident, LaPerna was on his way to work wearing street clothes in his personal vehicle when he apparently noticed a vehicle cross a double-yellow line and began a chase that reached speeds up to 60 mph. When the other driver stopped, there was a verbal confrontation, according to the report.
Byard has said that none of the infractions LaPerna was disciplined for over the years rose to the level of a terminable offense, other than the 2006 incident.
In addition to the disciplinary actions, LaPerna’s personnel file also shows he has been recognized twice by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for his efforts, and he has received some thank-you letters from citizens.
Contact reporter Eileen McClory at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Eileen_McClory.