JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Video captured footage of a man being punched by a police officer at a food mart in Northwest Jacksonville.
Demarcus Brown and his father are both plumbers. Brown said they stopped at Ethio Food Mart, located at West 16th Street and Myrtle Avenue North, to get something to drink when he got caught in the middle of an apparent drug arrest.
In the video, Brown’s dad buys something at the food mart and Brown said he walked in to check on his father. Then, the video shows Brown taken into a back room by police, where he’s punched by an officer at least two times.
“I’m trying to cover my face so they won’t hit me in my face. Then they pushed me in the back room and get me on the ground, get me in a choke hold. I tell them, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ I said like three or four times,” Brown said. “Finally they let go, then another officer hit me in the head twice.”
Brown now faces charges of resisting an officer with violence and trespassing, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office incident report.
He told the News4Jax I-TEAM that he’s unsure why it happened.
“I can’t say. I guess I just look like a drug dealer, tattoos and dreads. But (I’m) just trying to work,” Brown said.
After the incident, Brown hired a lawyer with the primary goal of getting the charges dropped.
His attorney, Rhonda Peoples-Waters, said he’s a victim of police brutality.
“My client was arrested and charged with resisting an officer with violence and trespass. We can certainly look at this video and we can see there was no resisting an officer with violence and no trespass,” Peoples-Waters said. “This video tells the story that my client would have never been able to tell without the credibility of this video.”
Peoples-Waters said they intend to file a lawsuit, but also want to work with the Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office on the investigation.
The I-TEAM spoke with Jacksonville Undersheriff Pat Ivey, who said there is a second video that recorded what happened. Ivey said the other video may tell a different story.
“There is another video that shows everything that occurred outside, which would have been a detective telling anybody else that would've tried to enter the store, after other police officers had already gone in the store, to take enforcement action with a different subject, not to go in the store,” Ivey said.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said both sides may have a point -- police giving Brown a warning and Brown justifiably worrying about his dad.
“He sees a bunch of police run in there with guns in their hands. Even though he may have been warned, he wants to go and check on his father. So I can understand someone wanting to do that. But still, you have to obey what police are saying,” Smith said.
Both the video in possession of the I-TEAM and the second video, which is considered evidence so it cannot be accessed, will be reviewed by Internal Affairs to determine whether the officer’s actions were OK or not.