Mon. May 20th, 2024

Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office deputy opens fire after mistaking acorn falling for gunshots

Florida deputy resigns after mistaking acorns falling for gunshots, opening fire on suspect: video

An investigation found the Okaloosa deputy’s use of force was not objectively reasonable

An Okaloosa, Florida deputy resigned from his position after an investigation into an officer-involved shooting revealed he started shooting at a suspect after mistaking the sound of acorns falling on his cruiser for gunshots.

On Nov. 12, 2023, a woman contacted the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office to report her boyfriend, Marquis Jackson, had stolen her vehicle at about 8:45 a.m.

Jackson returned to the neighborhood at around 9:10 a.m. and was detained by responding deputies. The deputies handcuffed and placed Jackson in the back seat of then-Deputy Jesse Hernandez’s patrol vehicle.

In video footage captured from Hernandez’s body camera, the deputy is seen walking back to his vehicle to perform a secondary search of Jackson when he heard a pop and perceived it to be a gunshot.

Former Okaloosa Sheriffs Office Deputy Jesse Hernandez resigned after an officer-involved shooting in which he opened fire after hearing acorns fall, mistaking them for gunshots. (Okaloosa Sheriffs Office via FOX 35 Orlando)

Hernandez then began shouting, “shots fired,” multiple times, falling to the ground and rolling to avoid being struck.

“I’m hit! I’m hit!” Hernandez exclaimed, mistakenly believing he had been shot.

The deputy pointed his gun at his patrol vehicle and began firing at it, shattering the rear window.

Sergeant Beth Roberts, who was also at the scene, responded with gunshots toward the vehicle as well, after witnessing the deputy’s response to what she believed was a threat.

In a social media post, the sheriff’s office said Jackson was able to escape the vehicle without injury.

The post added that the audible pop made by the acorn could be heard on body camera video and witnesses said they heard what could have been a muffled gunshot, as well.

An internal investigation by the sheriff’s office determined Hernandez’s use of force was not objectively reasonable. Hernandez ultimately resigned from his position on Dec. 4, 2023.

The investigation also found that Roberts’ use of deadly force was objectively reasonable, and she was exonerated from any wrongdoing.

The sheriff’s office also had the 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office do an independent review, which determined there was no probable cause for criminal charges.

Sheriff Eric Aden said in a statement that immediately following the incident, his department began working to determine the sequence of events and the facts that transpired.

“We are very thankful Mr. Jackson wasn’t injured, and we have no reason to think former Deputy Hernandez acted with any malice,” Aden said. “Though his actions were ultimately not warranted, we do believe he felt his life was in immediate peril and his response was based off the totality of circumstances surrounding this fear.

“Just as we have an obligation to protect our officers so they can go home safely to their families, law enforcement has the same obligation to any citizen being investigated for a crime,” the sheriff added.