A Pasco County deputy has been arrested and terminated after what's being described as a "strange" sexual encounter.

  • Incident occurred on Feb. 15
  • Former Deputy Joseph Mercado, 25, arrested Feb. 28
  • Woman's identity not released

An arrest affidavit states Joseph Mercado, 25, went to a woman's home around 3 a.m. on Feb. 15 and told her he needed to talk about a "serious incident" he saw.

The woman said she agreed to talk to him in the driveway.

He allegedly performed a sexual act on himself and then touched the woman inappropriately.

The woman said she was not in a romantic relationship with him at the time and she continually asked him to leave.

The sheriff's office said he was off-duty at the time of the incident.

Mercado was arrested Feb. 28 for misdemeanor battery.

The incident marks a strange end to a career that not long ago saw Mercado as one of the faces of the Sheriff's Office. In September 2016 he appeared in a social media video series posted by the Sheriff's Office entitled "Why We Wear the Badge."



In a statement on the incident, Sheriff Chris Nocco said:

"The Pasco County Sheriff's Office ensures discipline is paramount in our organization. The allegations were investigated, [Mercado] was arrested and terminated."

People who live in the neighborhood where Mercado grew up said they find it all hard to believe.

"I think he's a man of strong character, he's a man of good judgement, he's always been a wonderful neighbor, very giving, very loving," said Ruth Ilyas. "It's beyond any of my comprehension or thinking that he can actually be involved in something so bizarre." 

Mercado is out of jail on a $500 bond.

The woman's identity will not be released.