Police Abuse

A Florida Cop Gets Into a Shootout With an Acorn, Emptying His Gun Into His Own Patrol Car

Deputy Jesse Hernandez, whose bullets miraculously missed the handcuffed suspect in the car, resigned during an investigation that found he "violated policy."


A falling acorn prompted a Florida sheriff's deputy to empty his pistol into his own patrol car, where a handcuffed suspect was sitting at the time. Another deputy also fired at the car. Amazingly, neither the suspect nor anyone else was injured. The bizarre incident, which happened on November 12 in Fort Walton Beach, led to the resignation of Deputy Jesse Hernandez three weeks later, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office revealed on Friday.

Hernandez, who had been a deputy since January 2022, and his partner, Sgt. Beth Roberts, were responding to two service calls. The first, received at 8:42 a.m., involved "a vehicle driving around honking its horn and disrupting the peace since 3 a.m.," the sheriff's office said. The second call was from a woman who said her 22-year-old boyfriend, Marquis Jackson, had stolen her car and "had been calling and texting her threats." She "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, who showed up at the scene on McLaren Circle around 9:09 a.m., "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." She "told deputies Jackson had a silencer" but "she was not sure where it was" and added that he "had more than one weapon." Meanwhile, "other deputies found the victim's vehicle at 1656 Hunt Club Street."

Body camera video shows what happened next. Hernandez is walking back toward his patrol car when he exclaims, "Shots fired! Shots fired! Shots fired!" He rolls, runs away from his car, turns, and fires 17 rounds into the vehicle, emptying his magazine. While he is firing the last few rounds, he shouts, "I'm hit! I'm hit!" Later he says, "I'm good, but I feel weird." Then he speculates that "it might have hit my vest" and asks another officer, "Dude, am I hit?"

Hernandez was not hit, because no shots were fired until he began shooting at the patrol car where Jackson was sitting. After "witnessing Deputy Hernandez's response and reaction and fearing for his life," the sheriff's office says, Roberts "responded with gunshots towards the car as well in response to the perceived threat."

That's a lot of responding. To what, exactly? The sheriff's office says Hernandez "heard a pop sound which he perceived to be a gunshot." It adds that "the audible sound Deputy Hernandez reported can be heard on body cam video" (not by me!) and that "witnesses also attested they heard the sound they thought could have been a muffled gunshot." During the ensuing investigation, Vice News reports, Hernandez was shown "frame-by-frame footage" in which an acorn can be seen hitting the patrol car, which was parked near an oak tree. "Acorn?" Hernandez asked. "Acorn," an investigator replied.

"Immediately we began working diligently to determine the complete sequence of events and facts surrounding what transpired," Sheriff Eric Aden said. "Deputy Hernandez resigned during the course of our investigation but was ultimately found to have violated policy" because his use of deadly force was not "objectively reasonable." The internal investigation "also led to the determination" that Roberts' "use of deadly force was objectively reasonable," and "she was exonerated." A review by the 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office found "no probable cause for criminal charges" against either deputy.

Aden said he is "limited in further response due to pending litigation." But he added: "We understand this situation was traumatic for Mr. Jackson and all involved and have incorporated this officer involved shooting…into our training to try to ensure nothing similar happens again. We are very thankful Mr. Jackson wasn't injured and we 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. 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."

If Hernandez's actions "were ultimately not warranted," of course, he cannot take refuge in "the totality of circumstances." Those circumstances included a suspect who had already been repeatedly searched and taken into custody. Yet the pop of a falling acorn was all it took to convince Hernandez that Jackson had somehow managed to conceal a handgun equipped with a silencer, then retrieve and fire it, all while handcuffed and restrained by a seat belt in the back of a police car.

In a Facebook post, Jackson claims he "had not done anything wrong" when he was approached by the deputies. "They never told me anything," he writes. "I decided to cooperate and just follow demands….I was searched multiple times, then unlawfully handcuffed and placed into the backseat of the cop car while being strapped down by the seatbelts."

When the shooting started, Jackson says, "All I could do was lean over and play dead to prevent getting shot in the head. I was scared to death and I knew all I could depend on was God! I ignored everything and prayed! Windows were shattering on me the whole time as bullets continued flying across me. I was blessed not to get hit by any bullets or get hurt physically but mentally, I'm not ok. I haven't been the same since and I don't think this feeling I have will ever change. I truly believe I'm damaged for life!"