Florida Officer Mistakenly Thought Falling Acorn Was Gunshot, Body Cam Video Shows

police acorn video

Okaloosa Sheriff A screenshot from the police acorn video.

A Florida Sheriff’s Department body cam video shows how a falling acorn mistakenly caused an officer to think a handcuffed suspect had shot at him, prompting another officer to open fire.

An internal investigation report released by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department indicates authorities think Deputy Jesse Hernandez, a military veteran, had mistaken the falling acorn hitting his squad roof for a gunshot. The suspect, Marquis Jackson, was not injured by the barrage of gunfire.

“As Deputy Hernandez was approaching the passenger-side rear door of his patrol vehicle, an acorn can be seen striking the top of his vehicle,” The internal investigation report says.

When the sheriff's deputy, Jesse Hernandez, opened fire on the patrol vehicle, the handcuffed suspect was inside of it, ABC News reported.

acorn video

Okaloosa SheriffThe acorn timeline.

On February 9, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department wrote in a news release, “An Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy has resigned in connection with an officer involved shooting that took place November 12th, 2023 near Fort Walton Beach involving the deputy and a supervisor. Deputy Jesse Hernandez resigned December 4th.” According to NBC News, neither officer has been criminally charged.

Here’s what you need to know:

An Internal Investigation Determined the Use of Force Was ‘Not Objectively Reasonable’

The shooting comes just after 10 minutes into the above body cam video, which the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department posted on its YouTube page.

You can watch a slow-motion video showing the acorn hitting the squad car’s roof here.

According to the news release, “The internal investigation by Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards ultimately determined his use of force during a call on November 12th was not objectively reasonable. A policy violation regarding excessive use of control to resistance was sustained.”

The facts and evidence “gathered during the investigation also led to the determination Sergeant Beth Roberts’ use of deadly force was objectively reasonable. She was exonerated,” the release says.

According to the internal report, the investigator “asked Deputy Hernandez if he thought it was possible that the noise he heard, which he had interpreted as a gunshot from a suppressed firearm, was actually the noise of the acorn striking the roof of his patrol vehicle next to him. Deputy Hernandez answered, ‘I’m not gonna say no.'”

The release continues:

Deputies had responded to McLaren Circle around 8:42 a.m. in reference to an initial call of a vehicle driving around honking its horn and disrupting the peace since 3 a.m. A second call for service came in from a woman stating her boyfriend, Marquis Jackson, had committed grand theft auto, a felony offense, and had been calling and texting her threats.

The victim provided text messages she said had been taken from inside her vehicle showing what appeared to be a firearm suppressor pointing at the dash of the victim’s vehicle. Jackson showed up at the scene around 9:09 a.m. and was detained, searched, handcuffed, and placed in the rear of Deputy Hernandez’s patrol vehicle while the investigation continued, and the victim completed the affidavit for the stolen vehicle.

The victim told deputies Jackson had a silencer and she was not sure where it was and that also he 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.

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. He fired into the patrol car. After witnessing Deputy Hernandez’s response and reaction and fearing for his life, the Sergeant responded with gunshots towards the car as well in response to the perceived threat.

Jackson escaped injury and no weapon was located. The audible sound Deputy Hernandez reported can be heard on body cam video and witnesses also attested they heard the sound they thought could have been a muffled gunshot.

Deputy Hernandez had been with the OCSO since January 2022. Sergeant Beth Roberts has been with the OCSO since May 2008. Both were current on resistance training and firearms qualifications.

“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,” Sheriff Eric Aden said in the news release.

He added that officials “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.”

The internal report quotes Hernandez as telling investigators, ““Um, so I feel the impact. My legs just give out. Um, I don’t know where I’m hit. I think I’m hit. Um, I’m stuck. I rolled to the back of the car and now I’m stuck in the street, and I, um, I knew where the fire, uh, the shots came from, or I believed they came from, was right there.”

The County Sheriff Has Apologized to Marquis Jackson, Saying, ‘We Let the Public Down’

in a video statement posted to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Facebook page, Sheriff Eric Aden encouraged people to read the 44-page synopsis of the internal investigation.

“We hold our officers to a very high standard of service and, this particular time, we let the public down,” Aden said. He said this was a “very traumatic” incident for Jackson.

He said sheriff’s officials are thankful that he was not injured. Aden said it took eight weeks for police to complete the internal investigation.

“This was a very unique situation,” he said, adding that he hopes the department never finds itself in that situation again.

Aden said he tried to “go above and beyond.” He apologized “to Mr. Jackson and his family.”

Aden said the Sheriff’s Department would use “this particular case as training” for the rest of their staff to make sure they “never put someone’s life in jeopardy again.”

He said sheriff’s officials have an obligation to train officers well.

According to the internal report, Hernandez “said he attended West Point, and was an infantry officer and an officer in special forces for the army for a total of ten years. Deputy Hernandez said he had two combat rotations to Afghanistan, but noted as an officer, he was not in direct combat.”

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