JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels broke his silence Thursday after news broke earlier this week that he had accused a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office corrections officer he was previously involved with romantically of stalking him. No charges were filed in the case.
News4Jax met with Daniels, who was wearing his signature cowboy hat, as he returned from Washington, D.C., where he had attended the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Clay County had a contingent in the nation’s capital to honor fallen Deputy Ben Zirbel.
“Out of respect for my family and I, and her wishes, for us not to discuss our personal matters with the community and be a public spectacle,” Daniels said as he held hands with his wife, Denise.
He also took a personal shot at the officer, Cierra Smith, during the interview, saying she had recently been committed for psychiatric evaluation.
"The only thing that's concerning to me in this matter is, for someone who is freshly Baker Acted, to be following me around -- that gives me great concern, especially when they have a weapon in their vehicle,” he said.
In an interview Thursday, News4Jax asked Smith for her response to Daniels' comment that she had been Baker Acted.
"It did happen. Ultimately, when I did go to the hospital, the Baker Act was lifted because there is no need for the Baker Act. The therapist that I spoke to the hospital simply said that, 'This is more of a stressful situation for you than anything,'" Smith told News4Jax's Vic Micolucci.
Daniels filed the stalking report against Smith on May 6. According to the investigative report, Daniels claimed the woman started following him in her personal vehicle in the Oakleaf Plantation area "in a manner that caused him great concern."
A Jeep driven by Smith was pulled over in response to Daniels' complaint and a loaded gun was found inside the vehicle, according to a copy of the report. But attorney Latoya Williams-Shelton, who represents Smith, said there was a legitimate reason for the weapon to be there.
News4Jax also asked Daniels about a document from the State Attorney's Office that states Daniels' undersheriff, chief and lieutenant "did not feel comfortable" with the arrest, feeling there was not probable cause.
“My people are in place for a reason and although somebody made a decision to -- or thought to make a decision to make an arrest, if they did -- that's why they're in place for a reason," Daniels replied.
When further pressed on whether the arrest was inappropriate, he said, "No. No. No. I always want them to do the right thing."
Daniels said he will not speak further about this matter until a later date, out of respect for his wife.
“I'm going to honor her wishes, however, I'll make this promise -- that we will follow up with the media, specifically Channel 4, and clear the air on all that's going on,” he said. "Nothing has impacted my ability to be the sheriff. I'm still committed to the job that we do in Clay County. And I guess this almost increases my resolve to do a better job as a sheriff."
Denise Daniels politely declined to comment at this point.
The sheriff also said he's unaware whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is possibly investigating the matter.
News4Jax contacted the governor's office about this matter, but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon.