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Video: Fla. officer shoots at cuffed suspect after mistaking acorn landing on cruiser for gunfire

The suspect, who was inside the cruiser at the time, was not hit by any of the bullets

Editor’s note: Read this analysis to find out why an incident like this could easily happen again.

By Joseph Wilkinson
New York Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — A Florida police officer confused a falling acorn for a gunshot and responded by unleashing a hail of bullets on his own patrol car while a man sat handcuffed inside.

Jesse Hernandez of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office shot up his vehicle after the acorn struck the hood during the Nov. 12, 2023 incident. His partner, Beth Roberts, also opened fire on the vehicle after Hernandez yelled “Shots fired!” and said he had been struck by gunfire.

The handcuffed suspect inside the car, Marquis Jackson, was not struck by any of the bullets.

“Windows were shattering on me the whole time as bullets continued flying across me,” Jackson wrote Feb. 7 on Facebook. “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.”

Hernandez, Roberts and two other officers responded to two calls in Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. A woman had reported that her boyfriend, Jackson, refused to return her vehicle and sent her threatening messages, including an image of a firearm silencer.

While Roberts spoke with the woman, Hernandez returned to his vehicle to grab some papers. As he was walking past the vehicle, the acorn fell and struck the hood. Hernandez convinced himself that he’d been hit by a bullet, then dove and rolled dramatically on the ground.

“I feel the impact. My legs just give out,” Hernandez told internal investigators. “I returned fire until I could get cover behind another vehicle that was parked in a driveway there.”

Later in the interview, Hernandez was shown video of the acorn falling on his car.

“Deputy Hernandez asked, ‘Acorn?’” the report reads. “Investigator Hogan answered, ‘Acorn.’”

Hernandez resigned on Dec. 4. Roberts remains a member of the department.

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