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The search for a vehicle
It all began at 8:42 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2023, on McLaren Circle, when the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office received a call of a vehicle driving around honking its horn, disrupting the peace since 3 a.m.
A woman then called the sheriff’s office, accusing Jackson, 22, of taking a vehicle and sending threats via text message and phone calls.
According to the sheriff’s office, Jackson arrived at the scene around 9:09 a.m.; he was detained, searched, handcuffed and placed in the rear of Deputy Jesse Hernandez’s patrol vehicle.
The woman then completed an affidavit for a stolen vehicle. She told deputies Jackson had a silencer, but she wasn’t sure where it was, and that he had more than one weapon.
‘Shots fired! Shots fired! Shots fired!’
When Hernandez was returning with a Victim’s Rights form for the woman, other deputies had communicated they found her vehicle, according to the news release.
Hernandez then approached the passenger side rear door of his patrol vehicle to do a secondary search of Jackson when he heard a pop sound, which he thought was a gunshot, and believed he had been hit, according to an OCSO news release.
Hernandez yelled “shots fired” multiple times, fell to the ground, rolled and began firing in the patrol car, according to body camera footage of the incident.
Sgt. Beth Roberts then began firing into the vehicle in response to the perceived threat after she saw Hernandez’s response, reaction, and fear for his life.
Jackson escaped injury, and no weapon was located, the OCSO said.
Witnesses said they heard what they thought could have been a muffled gunshot, according to an OCSO news release. Three News 5 reporters listened to the body camera footage and did not hear the sound described.
Hernandez, who had been with OCSO since January 2022, resigned on Dec. 4, 2023, according to the OCSO. Roberts has been with OCSO since May 2008.
Both were current on resistance training and firearms qualifications, according to the sheriff’s office.
The internal investigation
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards conducted an internal investigation and determined Hernandez’s use of force was not objectively reasonable, according to an OCSO news release.
Hernandez violated policy regarding excessive use of control to resistance, the release said.
The investigation determined that Roberts’ use of deadly force was objectively reasonable, and she was exonerated, according to OCSO.
The OCSO Criminal Investigations Division reviewed the incident after initial investigation for any possible criminal charges.
The sheriff’s office also reportedly requested an independent review by the 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office. Ultimately, no probable cause for criminal charges was found.
WKRG News 5 requested the body camera footage from this incident on Feb. 7; the OCSO released the footage (seen above) today.
‘All I could depend on was God’
In a public Facebook post, Jackson recalled the day he could have died.
Specifically, he wrote, being handcuffed and placed in the backseat of Hernandez’s vehicle, and what shortly followed.
“A few moments later I hear an officer scream ‘I’m hit, he’s armed’!” Jackson said in the post. “As soon as that was announced multiple shots were fired at me while I was stuck in the backseat. All I could do was lean over and play dead to prevent getting shot in the head.”
Jackson said he 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.”
He said he was blessed not to get hit by bullets or physically be hurt, “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!”
‘We are very thankful Mr. Jackson wasn’t injured’
Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden released a statement regarding the incident and Hernandez’s resignation. He also posted a video to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office YouTube page.
In that statement, Aden said the OCSO must work to protect both officers and anyone accused of a crime.
“We are very thankful Mr. Jackson wasn’t injured and we have no reason to think former Deputy Hernandez acted with any malice,” Aden said. “We are limited in further response due to pending litigation. But let this be clear, 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.
“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.”