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Man who attacked officer apologizes, says harm was never his intent

'I went straight to praying for him': July 2020 attack on the Atlantic Beach Police officer was drug-induced, not deliberate, says his assailant.
Credit: WTLV WJXX
Jaden Perkins urges other teens to avoid bad decisions like his. “See what this did to me … and change.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Last week marked one year from a brutal attack on an Atlantic Beach Police Officer. Though recovering from his injuries, the officer remains unable to return to work.

However, the man who assaulted him says he has plenty of work ahead of him.

In a series of exclusive jailhouse interviews, Jaden Perkins, now 20, apologized for hurting Officer T. Stafford. He said he hopes to serve as an example to other teens, who he says are just one dumb decision from ruining the lives of many.

“This isn’t worth being on the phone with and hearing your mom cry,” Perkins said in recorded Zoom interviews arranged by his attorney Rob Bowers. “This isn’t worth hearing your brother say he misses you, and not knowing when you’re going back.”

Perkins was hanging out with some friends the night before the early morning incident. They’d encouraged him to try LSD. 

He’d never taken acid. 

“This would be my first time touching anything of the sort,” Perkins said. 

But they planned it ahead of time. They gathered at a friend’s apartment with movies, snacks and expectations for some mild hallucinations.

“They would tell me, you know, what kind of things you see lights getting blurry, and you know, everything's funny,” Perkins recalled.

The evening didn’t go as planned. 

Perkins says he had a bad, almost dissociative reaction to the drug. He remembers bits and pieces of the night, he said, eventually wandering to the Panera Bread on Atlantic Boulevard. Early the next morning, police were called about a man acting erratically. 

When Officer T. Stafford arrived, police say, Perkins immediately attacked him.

RELATED: Police identify man who reportedly stomped on officer's head before being shot by another officer in Atlantic Beach

“That’s not my son,” said Jamell Warfield, Perkins' mom. “I am here to set the record straight: My son is not a monster.’"

Warfield, who was in the hospital at the time, began getting news alerts about the violent attack, her son named as the suspect. 

A postal worker, she notes that the Atlantic Beach Police Department was at the start of her delivery route. She says she stopped in that same Panera about three times a week.

“It just didn’t seem real,” she remembered. “When I did go to sleep, I'd wake up. You wake up and you say, ‘My son is in jail.' That's kind of hard to still say now.”

RELATED: 'We all wish this did not happen:' Mother of man accused of beating Atlantic Beach officer apologizes for her son

Perkins, who was shot once by the second officer on the scene, was taken to the hospital and absentee booked into jail. When he came to jail, he says he had no memory of the incident. Officers there to arrest him told him he’d beaten an officer unconscious. Officer Stafford ultimately had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery.

“I went straight to praying for him, just hoping he was okay,” Perkins said.

Both Warfield and her son have reached out to Stafford and his family to apologize. They say that whatever Jaden did that night it was a reaction to the drug he’d taken and not a deliberate act.

“Jaden is just the most loving person,” Warfield said. “He wishes he remembered more, he doesn’t. [But] he knows he didn’t do anything on purpose or anything like that.”

Charged with attempted second-degree murder, Jaden faces life in prison. He hopes for a lesser sentence and thinks his story might help other teens from making bad decisions  

“See me,” he said. “See what this did to me … and change.”