Updated: Sep 15
On August 13, 2022, Officer Emma Spaulding, Officer Tommy Alvin, and Corporal Brooke Shutterly went to the Gentlemen's Club Coconut Cabaret under the jurisdiction of Sergeant Aaron Wagle. The officers did not attempt to contact the owners about why they were present, entering the club without their permission. An entertainer at the club, Alison Robbins, was sitting at the bar when she was approached by Shutterly and told her underwear needed to be measured. Robbins asked if she could go into the locker room to change so they could be measured, and Shutterly replied that Robbins did not have to take off her underwear and that they could go into the locker room. Robbins was followed into the dressing room by the officers, where they were met by Brittney Cunningham and Aliyha Nichols.
The officers did not ask permission before entering the dressing room. Co-Owner Anthony Grezlik went over in his police interview that dressing rooms are private spaces, off limits to everyone but entertainers. Staff are required to ring a doorbell before entering.
Robbins asked if only she needed to be measured or if everyone in the room needed to be measured. Shutterly said everyone, despite Cunningham and Nichols being in a private dressing room. Shutterly began measuring the girls starting with Robbins while Alvin stood at the door blocking co-owner James Rauch from entering. When Robbins went to pull her thong back to be measured, Shuuterly pushed her hand away and pulled it back herself. Shutterly did the same with Nichols remarking, "You're good darling," after measuring her. When measuring Cunningham, Shutterly repeatedly made sexualized comments about her body, stating she was going to "Get real close and personal."
Shutterly said there was no indication the women were uncomfortable during her police interview. She said she felt she conducted herself as politely and professionally as possible. She additionally stated she didn't want them to change before measuring because it would make her uncomfortable. When asked why she did not allow them to change, she said she "Didn't know how they would do that."
After the assault, Robbins left the dressing room, and Nichols was asked to send an entertainer on stage back to the dressing room. After Cunningham was measured, Alvin left the dressing room, leaving her, Spaulding, and Shutterly. A conversation ensued between Shutterly and Cunningham, where Shutterly said, "I could never do it. I respect you immensely for it. I could never do it."
Cunningham said in her police interview that the whole situation made her very uncomfortable and that she felt judged by the officer's comments. Cunningham said the officers measuring being women did not make the situation any better, as they are in a no-touch club, and the rules apply to both men and women.
The entire incident was proven with audio and video evidence. GPD has an active policy stating an officer cannot conduct a strip search in the field.
Coconut Cabaret employees Alison Robbins, Aliyha Nichols, and co-owner Anthony Grezlik have made calls for further consequences than written warnings to be brought upon Cpl. Brooke Shutterly, Officer Emma Spaulding, Officer Tommy Alvin, and Sergeant Aaron Wagle.
Robbins and Nichols agree that Shutterly should be charged with sexual assault for physically assaulting them. They also agree that the other three officers involved should've received much harsher repercussions than a written warning. Nichols says Officer Alvin shouldn't get a slap on the wrist because he didn't physically touch them.
"He's a man himself. He should not have felt comfortable being there. I felt like they could've talked amongst themselves and figured he could stand outside. He was in there coaching them, hyping them up, giving them that thrill, that "I'm all mighty" type of thing. Nonetheless, that was his team; he came out. One bad apple was exposed to the rest; he happened to be with a bad bunch that night. You don't get a slap on the wrist because you didn't physically touch us."
Robbins says that although Officer Spaulding was standing in the room without touching, she should still have received harsher consequences for her previous involvement with a co-owner.
"She was the one that really had the issue with the manager and kept coming back multiple times."
Robbins and Nichols agree that Sergeant Wagle should be removed from his position at the Gainesville Police Department. Robbins added that the Sergeant failed to train the officers he had jurisdiction over. She also disclosed that she later found out the Sergeant she initially made the complaint to was the same Sergeant that sent the three officers to Coconut Cabaret.
"There was no training done at all. They didn't train them or tell them anything. He should lose that position. It made me really upset. That night, I was talking to this person on the phone about what happened to me, and that was the Sergeant. I feel like he just shuffled it under his desk because he was the one who orchestrated it. It's like a feeling of going to the person who raped you and complaining. You feel like you can't trust the people who are supposed to protect our community. I don't feel like I can go to the police and make a complaint because there was nefariousness surrounding the whole thing. He lied; he could've said, "I sent them out there; sorry they didn't do what they were supposed to." He acted like he never knew about it, saying, "Oh, that's horrible. That's not right." It makes me sad that someone would do that when they are in a position of power over other police officers. There was no training happening. If they trained them, they would've known the law. How can we comply with something when they can't tell us what it is?"
Nichols says the officers not only violated the law but also violated Coconut Cabaret's rules.
"When you go in there, there are signs everywhere that say no contact; you're not allowed to touch the dancers. That rule applies to the women that come into the club, the men that come into the club, and it applies to the officers that come into the club. It doesn't matter what your job title is. Those signs are big and posted all over the club. You're not to touch us, and they felt like it was okay because they wore a suit and badge."
Grezlik, the club's co-owner, held a similar sentiment for the deserved consequences of each officer.
"They should have charges recommended. You do not get to walk into somebody's workspace, order someone to bend over, fish their undergarments out from under their ass, and keep your job. It's criminal. With me being prior law enforcement, law enforcement is held to a higher standard because they are under oath. Charges should be recommended for those officers, starting with the Sergeant who made the recommendation. Those officers took it upon themselves to commit a felony on three citizens."
Grezlik believes all the officers in the room should be charged with sexual assault as Florida does not have an accessory charge, and all involved would be charged the same as the principal participants. He cited the oath Florida police officers take, saying they all violated it by either committing a felony or not preventing it. He believes that the officers got off the hook because they are in law enforcement and that a regular citizen would've been arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced.
The management, staff, and entertainers at Coconut Cabaret believe this was a targeted attack due to the nature of the establishment. Additionally, they believe the police singled out Robbins. Numerous pieces of evidence support their claim.
Two weeks prior to the assault, on July 31, 2022, Spaulding had an encounter with co-owner Rauch when responding to a noise complaint. During the encounter, Rauch alleged they were receiving noise complaints because of the nature of the establishment. Officer Spaulding replied she did not know what type of club it was despite a sign reading "Coconut Cabaret Gentlemen's Club." Spaulding alleged she didn't see the sign. Additionally, Spaulding did not specify how much the volume should be turned down upon Rauch's asking, stating, "Just a little bit." Spaulding and Rauch then argued, and Spaulding asked if he had received noise warnings before. Rauch replied that he had and, as a result, had set the music to 85 decibels and had walked around with a decibel meter to ensure they were following the noise ordinance.
Robbins felt singled out by officers for various reasons. Robbins said in her police interview that many girls were wearing shorter bottoms than she was. Officers did attempt to measure a girl performing on stage; however, they gave up after waiting a few minutes, resulting in them only measuring Robbins, Nichols, and Cunningham. Robbins believes Nichols and Cunningham were only measured because they happened to be backstage. Robbins also says the security guard, Eric Ramos told her that one of the officers said they wanted to arrest her.
The officers offered many excuses for their actions during and after the assault. During the investigation, Shutterly claimed that Spaulding informed her she saw a dancer not wearing any bottoms while the door swung open during the encounter with Rauch two weeks prior. Spaulding made the same claim, saying Shutterly told her she saw a dancer wearing no bottoms. This claim caught staff and entertainers off guard, as Coconut Cabaret has a no-nudity and no-touching policy. Cunningham said in her police interview that the dancers would be in trouble if they walked around with no bottoms. Spaulding later revealed during the investigation that this was more likely an offhand comment of someone saying something like, "What if they are naked in there?"
Spaulding claimed the purpose of the measurement was to educate and inform. Despite this, she took no copies of the city ordinance on nudity with her. The internal investigation showed none of the officers had any substantial knowledge of what the city ordinance on nudity entails. She also claimed she was there to learn about city ordinances from Shutterly; the internal investigation found Shutterly had not acted as a mentor to Spaulding before.
The excuse offered for Alvin's presence was that Co-Owner Rauch caused a scene during the noise ordinance check on the 31st. No body-cam footage provides evidence of this. Shutterly additionally said she wanted a "male presence" to keep an eye on Rauch, stating he made her uncomfortable. Despite Alvin's purpose for being present to keep an eye on Rauch, he remained inside the girl's dressing room instead of going outside with Rauch. Alvin remarked in his police interview that Rauch had a "whole attitude" with him regarding police barging into the dressing room. Alvin failed to explain why he thought Rauch had an attitude.
Sergeant Wagle was not at the club during this incident; however, he did have direct involvement. Wagle authorized Shutterly to take along Spaulding to enforce the nudity ordinance, suggesting they take Alvin too because he's a "big guy." Wagle called it a "great training opportunity." Wagle did say the officers should have contacted the owners; however, he agreed with Shutterly's decision to measure their underwear while it was on their bodies, stating it would be creepy to ask them to change.
Three out of four officers involved in this case were found violating GPD General Orders.
Spaulding did not receive any form of warning or punishment regarding her involvement. The allegation of the measurement being conducted as retaliation for her interaction with Rauch was unfounded by the internal affairs investigator.
Wagle was found in violation of GPD General Order 12.1 for not properly briefing the officers on their roles during the compliance check. He was given a written warning.
Alvin was found in violation of GPD General Order 26.1 and was given a written warning. He did not receive the warning for being present in the dressing room while Shutterly measured the women's underwear, but for saying, "I'm not in the mood for no old white man bullshit." regarding Rauch.
Shutterly was found in violation of GPD General Order 1.4 for reaching into the undergarments of three women while conducting a city ordinance check. She was given a written warning.
The internal affairs investigator Sergeant Leah Hayes did not recommend the officers for further investigation to the state attorney. These officers are active in the Gainesville community and are legally allowed to interact with citizens despite audio and video evidence of them committing a felony.
The internal affairs investigation can be found here.
Edited | October 13: Picture mistakenly showed an officer on Shutterly’s body camera footage instead of Shutterly.
Shutterly (Left). Spaulding (Middle). Wagle (Right).