Two weeks passed between the day Andrea Washington reported a violent assault by her fiancé and the day she was found murdered in her Northside Jacksonville home.
Danny Beard was accused of kicking Washington in the stomach and threatening her life with a handgun Sept. 1. On Sept. 17 Washington – a newly promoted Navy Chief Petty Officer and mother of three - was dead. Police have not yet disclosed how she died.
Beard has not been linked to her death or accused of any crime.
He was also never arrested for the alleged aggravated assault.
Now the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is saying that was a State Attorney’s Office decision.
In an email exchange Thursday, JSO Public Information Officer Melissa Bujeda explained that JSO sought an arrest warrant, but prosecutors didn't act.
“The ‘Affidavit for Arrest Warrant’ … was submitted to the SAO electronically. … [It] was submitted to the state and the officer is waiting THEIR decision (emphasis hers). We can’t move forward unless that decision occurs,” Bujeda stated in the email.
In a separate email, Bujeda wrote, “If the document states it is ... pending a State Attorney approval, that means it is their decision if a warrant will be issued. The officer does not issue a warrant themselves. It goes through the State Attorney. … Probable cause affidavit is what the State Attorney was pending.”
Bujeda’s comments are consistent with the police supplemental report in the assault case, which says an unnamed Assistant State Attorney told Patrol Officer B.S. Crocker “he would call me back after a decision was made in the case.”
The question of who was positioned to make an arrest and why one wasn't made, emerged in the days following Washington’s murder. A friend who reported the alleged assault said she feared for Washington’s safety. Washington herself sought and received a restraining order.
According to the police report, Beard “pushed her down in the dining area and kicked her in the stomach." When she hid in a closet, “Beard kicked open the bedroom door, then the closet door and pointed a silver handgun in her face. He then stated that he was going to kill her.”
A supplemental report in the case noted police “attempted to make contact with suspect Beard” at his mother’s house, “with negative results.”
Bujeda explained, “The suspect is [listed as] outstanding in the report, so there is no arrest affidavit. If you requested the arrest docket, it would have been sent back 'no records exist.'"
We reached out to the State Attorney’s Office to find out why prosecutors didn’t seek an arrest warrant in the case. Spokesperson David Chapman pushed back on JSO's version of events, saying it was the officer's doubts about whether Washington would cooperate that slowed the process.
“After his preliminary investigation, including meeting with Ms. Washington, the investigating officer did not believe he had probable cause to make an arrest," Chapman wrote. "He conveyed this to the State Attorney’s Office and also expressed concern about whether Ms. Washington would cooperate in a prosecution. Based on the information he relayed, it was determined that further investigation was necessary.”
Police officers are not required to get a warrant in order to make an arrest – they can do so based on probable cause. However, Bujeda said officers can only do so within “a very short time frame. A warrant has to be applied for if contact was not made in that short time frame.”
Family law attorney Cydney Bulger, who handles domestic violence cases, says she can’t understand why no arrest was made, given the nature of the allegations. “That seems like ample time to file charges, if they decided to.” She added of Washington, “It sounds like she did everything right."