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A Florida sheriff’s deputy, Jesse Hernandez, resigned after mistakenly believing the sound of an acorn hitting his patrol cruiser was gunfire and subsequently firing multiple shots at an SUV where a handcuffed Black man was seated in the backseat. The incident occurred on November 12th, with the man, who was being questioned about stealing his girlfriend’s car, luckily escaping injury. He was detained but released without charges, while Deputy Hernandez, the officer who initiated the shooting, resigned.

Misinterpretation of Sound Leads to Shooting

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office released body-camera footage and an internal affairs report, revealing that Deputy Hernandez mistook the sound of an acorn falling for gunfire just before shots were fired. The acorn had bounced off the roof of Hernandez’s patrol vehicle. The incident unfolded during a response to a call regarding a stolen car and alleged threats by the boyfriend of the car’s owner, who was reported to have a weapon.

Reaction and Investigation

Upon hearing the sound, Hernandez believed he had been shot and yelled “shots fired,” subsequently firing into the patrol car where the handcuffed man was seated. Sergeant Beth Roberts, reacting to the gunfire and Hernandez’s screams, also fired into the car. While Roberts’ use of force was deemed reasonable, Hernandez’s actions were found to be “not objectively reasonable” by the sheriff’s internal affairs investigation.

Resignation and Legal Outcomes

Hernandez resigned on December 4th, while reviews by the sheriff’s criminal investigations division and the state attorney’s office found no probable cause for criminal charges against him. Sheriff Eric Aden acknowledged the traumatic nature of the incident for the suspect and emphasized that Hernandez’s actions, though deemed unwarranted, were driven by a perceived threat to his life.

Training and Oversight

The Okaloosa sheriff’s office has incorporated the incident into training for deputies to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Despite the lack of criminal charges, the case underscores the challenges faced by law enforcement officers in high-stress situations and the importance of thorough training and oversight to ensure appropriate responses.