Cop Resigns After Firing At Unarmed Suspect When He Mistook Falling Acorn For Gunshot, Police Say

(Screenshot/Facebook/Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office)

Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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Florida police officer Jesse Hernandez tendered his resignation in December following an incident the previous month in which he opened fire at an unarmed suspect after confusing the sound of an acorn hitting a car with a gunshot.

Hernandez fired his pistol at Marquis Jackson, a suspected car thief, according to a final report by the Office of Professional Standards.

None of the bullets struck Jackson, Sheriff Eric Aden noted in a statement.

“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,” Aden said in a press release summarizing the content of the report.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office posted the body cam footage of the incident to Facebook on Monday.

The incident that sparked the shooting occurs a little after the 10-minute mark of the video. Hernandez, the officer with the body cam, can be heard shouting, “Shots fired! Shots fired!” He then rolls over and goes prone before unloading the entire magazine of their pistol into the back of the patrol car where Jackson was waiting in handcuffs, according to the report. During this time, he can also be heard saying “I’m hit! I’m hit!” and later explains to his fellow officers that he thought he had been shot at through the car.

Later, when asked whether whether he was hit, Hernandez tells a fellow officer, “I don’t know; it felt like it” and asks the officer whether he was hit. The video then switches to police Sgt. Beth Roberts’s body cam, showing the moment when Hernandez yelled, “Shots fired!”

She responds to the situation by grabbing her gun and also firing into the vehicle. Roberts can be heard saying into her radio that an officer was down and inquired how Hernandez was doing.

Neither officer will be criminally prosecuted, according to a press statement by Sheriff Aden. The investigation determined that “Sergeant Beth Roberts’ use of deadly force was objectively reasonable” given what she knew at the time and consequently “[s]he was exonerated.” Hernardez was deemed to have not used deadly force in a reasonable way, the press release noted.