Two new Jacksonville videos raise questions about police interactions with black residents as cities across the country grapple with mounting concerns over police violence in the wake of killings in Kentucky, Georgia and Minnesota.
In one Jacksonville video shared this month, a woman called 911 asking for assistance after an officer parked in her driveway for a nearby police matter and wouldn’t leave.
“Why can’t he pull off my yard? Why can’t he leave my yard?” she asks an officer, who is white and she is black. After her repeated questions, he tried to grab her, and though the video didn’t show what happened next, her screams lasted 15 seconds before the video cut out. Subsequent photos showed her teeth were broken during an arrest.
In another video, shared Wednesday, another white officer is seen chasing after a black man on the Northside, shouting “I’m going to shoot you, mother f-----!”
In Jacksonville there have been 10 police shootings this year, surpassing all the police shootings in 2019. The last year with more shootings was in 2015 when 15 people were shot by police.
These incidents come in the wake of the South Georgia killing of Ahmaud Arbery by a former police officer, the Louisville police killing of Breonna Taylor and the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
Over the last few years in Jacksonville, recorded interactions between police have played a central role in exposing tensions between law enforcement and communities: the viral video of a young man threatened with jail time for jaywalking, an officer who punching civilians who he claimed spat at him and the police arrests of five anti-war protesters in Hemming Park.
Activists are organizing a protest outside the Sheriff’s Office headquarters Saturday to call for the release of body camera footage in all 10 shootings, including six that were fatal. They’re also demanding an end to excessive force by police and for community oversight, according to the event’s Facebook page and releases sent by activists.
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During a Thursday evening event, Sheriff’s Office Investigations Chief T.K. Waters said that something like what happened in Minneapolis couldn’t happen here, and he told people that if they encounter an officer doing something wrong, they should call 911 to resolve the situation.
But Brittany Chrishawn Williams’ video presents a different story.
On May 13, a Jacksonville officer parked his car in a driveway because he believed, according to an arrest report, the home was abandoned.
Williams, a 29-year-old graduate of the Paxon School for Advanced Studies and the University of Central Florida, walked out of her house and asked the officer if she could help him.
He said he was going to check emails and then leave shortly, according to the arrest report. The report said she then asked him to leave her property. He again said he was going to finish up his work there first.
“The suspect immediately threw a spoon with an unknown green substance on it at me while I was sitting in my car,” the report said.
She then called 911, asking for another officer to help her because he wouldn’t leave.
When another officer arrived, the first officer explained that she had committed battery by throwing a spoon at him.
The video shared on social media shows her pleading with the officers to leave her property.
“I want him to leave,” she told the officer. ”... When I asked him, `Why are you here? Police officer, please leave,′ he started yelling at me. Do you think he has this kind of power, this kind of authority?”
She then repeats, “Why are you here, and why are y’all smirking?”
Then the video shows the second officer seeming to grab her as she runs backwards into the house screaming.
Her boyfriend’s voice is heard begging the officer to stop as the phone is dropped.
“No, no, no, no, stop, please, please stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. Please stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. Please, please bro, please, please, man, please. That’s my girl, please.”
She was arrested on two charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and one charge of resisting arrest without violence. The arrest report said she had a gun, but it appeared she lawfully owned the gun. She was initially held on a $7,009 bond that she paid.
She also posted videos showing a row of police cars across the street-facing her home and said she has seen police cars outside her home every day since getting out of jail.
A friend posted a GoFundMe to raise money to pay for dental surgery.
“Y’all pray for me. I hate this with all my heart. And as embarrassing as this is for me, I need the world to see what I’m going through because this is so unfair and unjust. The officers say I battered them, yet I’m the only one with injuries.”
Her GoFundMe page said, “The nerves in her teeth are exposed. Her own saliva causes her excruciating pain from her broken teeth. She has not been able to sleep, and she hasn’t eaten in days. The only thing she can do is drink water from a straw, and even that is a daunting task. She is beginning to feel weak, and she doesn’t know how much longer she can go without eating something that can sustain her health.”
Her lawyers, Reganel Reeves and Obi Anum of the Cochran Firm, said they’re asking the State Attorney’s Office to drop the charges and investigate the officers.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s spokesman did not return multiple requests for comment.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who testified today on Capitol Hill and referred to protests in Minneapolis, also did not comment.
The Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office don’t allow for the release of body-worn camera footage, even though public records law doesn’t prohibit them from releasing it while an investigation is ongoing. The Sheriff’s Office even won’t release it after an arrest has been made. When asked why, the Sheriff’s Office said The Times-Union needed to hire an attorney.
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On Wednesday, in the other video, a police officer tried to pull over Charles Friedrich Peterson for reckless driving and driving with a suspended license when the 25-year-old, who had an outstanding warrant for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, took off running, according to the arrest report.
As an officer ran after him, he was videotaped shouting threats to shoot him.
The arrest report said the incident was part of the “Citywide Community Problem Response Unit.”
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Christian Hancock issued the following statement:
“The video has been reviewed and the officer depicted has been identified as a JSO officer. The scenario depicted has also been established to a point. The pursuit of the suspect began as a result of a vehicle pursuit in which the suspect was the driver and bailed out, fleeing on foot. The suspect was apprehended just out of view of the footage and has been identified as a subject with active felony warrants. As the officer passes by the camera, it is apparent that he is holding a black object in his hand. This has been identified as a Conducted Energy Weapon or `Taser’ and not the officer’s firearm. The suspect was apprehended without any force being used to include the Taser not being deployed.
“As stated earlier, since the identification of the officer as being a member of JSO, the incident is being administratively reviewed at this time,” the statement continued. “As always, upon completion, the results of the investigation would be made available as a public record.”
Hancock did not address the expletive or conduct protocol.
On Facebook and Instagram, the video was shared Wednesday night by an account called DuvalPromo. The account said in a direct message that the video was shared with them this week, but the account didn’t know where the video originated.
In the video, the officer twice shouts at the running suspect that he is going to shoot him.
Peterson was arrested on charges of fleeing an officer, possessing marijuana, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving. He was also arrested on a warrant from last year for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.
The police officer said in Peterson’s arrest report that he “appeared to be reaching into his waistband area as if trying to produce a weapon, so I gave the suspect loud commands to stop and told him I was going to shoot him. The suspect stopped behind a parked vehicle, where I could not see his hands. I approached the suspect, grabbed his arms and took him to the ground. The suspect was then detained without incident.”
It appears from the arrest report that Peterson wasn’t armed.
Public Defender Charlie Cofer said that while he can’t comment on the specific cases, he believes the Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office should begin releasing body-worn camera footage in incidents like these.
“We support the release of body cam footage. We think it’s important to let people in the community to see what happened in some of these circumstances. The body-cam footage is good for two reasons. It verifies good police work, and it verifies bad police work.”
Saturday’s protest caravan calling for the release of all body-camera footage will take place at 3 p.m. outside the Sheriff’s Office building at 501 E. Bay Street.