A Florida sheriff’s deputy averted a gunshot at the last second Tuesday to avoid wounding a man he realized was not armed.
Officer J.C. Garcia mistakenly believed a driver who led him on a brief pursuit was armed, so he drew and fired his weapon about 9:15 p.m., investigators said.
But the Jacksonville sheriff’s officer managed to wave his gun off immediately upon determining the driver, 29-year-old Brian Dennison, was not actually holding a weapon.
Garcia began following the green Ford Focus driven by Dennison after spotting the car speed through a parking lot to avoid a traffic signal.
The officer said the car had expired tags, and he said Dennison drove away from an automatic teller machine as he approached from behind.
Garcia turned on his lights after the driver ran a stop sign, but the officer said Dennison did not stop and nearly caused a crash after driving the wrong way into a traffic lane.
Dennison pulled into an apartment complex and got out of his vehicle, and Garcia initially thought he spotted a weapon and fired his own.
Dennison was not injured, and he explained to the five-year veteran he had been rushing home to get an inhaler after his 6-year-old daughter suffered an asthma attack.
The girl was frightened by the gunshot, her mother said.
“She just thought that they were going to shoot her, and she was afraid for her dad,” said Nacoya Ransom.
She said Dennison held his hands out the car window after stopping to show the officer he was unarmed.
Dennison’s cousin overheard the incident and doesn’t understand why the officer fired his service weapon.
“I think he just shot to shoot, you know,” said Dekierian Cook. “There’s really no reason.”
The police report filed by Garcia does not mention the shooting, which a spokeswoman for the department explained was part of a separate investigation.
Garcia will not be placed on leave during the investigation.
Dennison was arrested on misdemeanor charges of knowingly driving with a suspended license and driving with a suspended license, and he was taken to the Duval County Jail.
A Jacksonville police officer shot and killed another man Tuesday evening during a traffic stop.
Officer Cecil Grant stopped 33-year-old Leonardo Marquette Little shortly after 7:30 p.m. after noticing his vehicle had expired tags.
The officer said Little gave several names and dates of birth during the stop, but he was still able to determine the driver had a suspended license and attempted to arrest him.
Grant said the man attempted to flee with one handcuff on, and the officer used his Taser three times before he said Little was able to take control of the non-lethal weapon.
The officer shot and killed Little, who police said told a woman riding in his car that he would not go back to jail.
Watch this video report posted online by WJXT-TV: