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BY Francis Akhalbey, 9:00am February 15, 2024,

Florida deputy shot at unarmed man after mistaking sound of falling acorns for gunshots

Marquis Jackson was unarmed and handcuffed when shots were fired at the patrol car he had been placed in -- Images via Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office

An Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy, who opened fire on an unarmed Black man in his patrol vehicle after mistaking the sound of falling acorns for gunshots, has tendered his resignation. 

According to FOX 35 Orlando, the November 2023 incident occurred after former Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Hernandez and other colleagues responded to a neighborhood to investigate a car theft report that was made by the girlfriend of a male suspect.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in a statement said that the woman also claimed her boyfriend Marquis Jackson had been calling and sending her threatening messages. Jackson later showed up at the scene and was detained, searched, handcuffed, and then put in the back of Hernandez’s patrol car.

The victim also informed the deputies that Jackson was in possession of a silencer, though she could not tell where it was, the statement said. She added that Jackson had more than one weapon.

“As Deputy Hernandez was returning with a Victim’s Rights form for the caller, other deputies found the victim’s vehicle at 1656 Hunt Club Street,” the statement said. “Deputy Hernandez was approaching the passenger side rear door of his patrol car to do a secondary search of Jackson when he heard a pop sound which he perceived to be a gunshot and believed he had been hit. He began yelling ‘shots fired’ multiple times, falling to the ground and rolling.”

Hernandez then fired at his patrol car before another deputy who had responded to the scene also shot at the vehicle “in response to the perceived threat.” Jackson fortunately did not sustain any injuries from the shooting and no weapon was found, the statement said.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards in a subsequent investigation into the shooting determined Hernandez’s use of force was not objectively reasonable. “A policy violation regarding excessive use of control to resistance was sustained,” the statement said.

The other deputy who opened fire was cleared of any wrongdoing after the investigation determined her use of force was objectively reasonable. “After the initial investigation into the officer involved shooting was completed, it was reviewed by the OCSO Criminal Investigations Division for any possible criminal charges,” the statement added.

“Subsequently the OCSO requested an independent review by the 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office. No probable cause for criminal charges was found.”

Hernandez, who had been with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office since January 2022, resigned during the investigation. 

“Immediately we began working diligently to determine the complete sequence of events and facts surrounding what transpired. Deputy Hernandez resigned during the course of our investigation but was ultimately found to have violated policy. The deputies were cleared however of any criminal wrongdoing,” Sheriff Eric Aden said in the statement.

“We are limited in further response due to pending litigation. But let this be clear, we understand this situation was traumatic for Mr. Jackson and all involved and have incorporated this officer involved shooting it into our training to try to ensure nothing similar happens again.”

Aden continued: “We are very thankful Mr. Jackson wasn’t injured and we have no reason to think former Deputy Hernandez acted with any malice. 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.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 15, 2024


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