Florida Deputy Resigns After Firing Shots Mistaking Acorns for Gunfire

An Okaloosa County constable has resigned following an inquiry into an officer-involved shooting.

The incident occurred on November 12, 2023, and was caused by a misunderstanding in which the constable fired bullets at a suspect after mistaking the sound of falling acorns for gunfire.

Misinterpretation Leads to Officer-Involved Shooting

The line of events started when a woman reported her boyfriend, Marquis Jackson, for taking her car. When Jackson returned to the neighborhood, responding deputies detained him.

Deputy Jesse Hernandez, one of the police involved, placed Jackson in the back seat of his patrol vehicle for additional investigation.

A Constable Mistook an Innocuous Sound for Gunfire

As Hernandez began a secondary search of Jackson, he heard what he thought was a gunshot.

Hernandez, believing he was under fire, cried “shots fired” and discharged his handgun at the patrol car, shouting that he had been hit. It was eventually discovered that the sound he heard consisted of acorns falling on his ship.

Florida Deputy Resigns After Firing Shots Mistaking Acorns for Gunfire

Investigation Finds That the Use of Force Was Not Justified

A subsequent review by the sheriff’s office decided that Deputy Hernandez’s use of force was not objectively reasonable, prompting his resignation on December 4, 2023.

Sergeant Beth Roberts, who also fired her weapon in response to Hernandez’s actions, was determined to have behaved appropriately and was acquitted of all charges.

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Department Makes Changes Following Incident

The event prompted the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office to conduct an internal assessment and include the officer-involved shooting in their training program.

Sheriff Eric Aden stated in a statement that his agency began investigating the incident right after to understand the chain of events and the facts that occurred.

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He noted how painful the situation was for Jackson and everyone else involved and stated that the officer-involved shooting had been incorporated into the department’s training.

“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 in a statement. “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 said.

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

While the incident serves as a sad reminder of the difficulties that law enforcement officers experience in high-pressure circumstances, it also emphasizes the significance of comprehensive training and excellent judgment in de-escalating potentially deadly encounters.

Following this regrettable occurrence, the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office is committed to maintaining the highest levels of professionalism and responsibility within its ranks, guaranteeing the safety and well-being of both officers and the communities they serve.

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