JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man in his 20s who attacked an Atlantic Beach police officer about 7:30 a.m. Thursday in a parking lot in front of a Panera Bread restaurant, knocking the officer unconscious, was shot by a backup officer after the suspect advanced toward the second officer, according to Atlantic Beach Police Chief Victor Gualillo.
“Witnesses in the area confirm that the officer laying on the ground and the suspect was actively punching him,” Gualillo said.
When a second Atlantic Beach officer arrived, he saw the suspect stomping on the officer’s head. When that officer gave verbal commands, the suspect backed off and got on the ground. But while waiting for other backup officers, the suspect got back up and said something to the effect of, “You’re going to have to kill me.” At that point, the suspect began to advance on the officer, according to Gualillo.
When the suspect tried to reach for the second officer’s gun, that officer fired one shot and the man fell to the ground but remained combative until he was subdued by more officers.
Both the original officer who was attacked and the suspect were taken to area hospitals with serious injures but were expected to survive.
Gualillo indicated the officer, who had been with ABPD for 18 months since retiring after 27 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, was beaten has injures to his head and face.
“He was able to talk to me. We anticipate he will recover, but it will be a while before he can come back to work,” Gualillo said. “He is a great officer. He has been an asset to us, for sure. He’s had plenty of time on the street and knows what he’s doing.”
The suspect did not appear to have a weapon. He had no wallet and police are still trying to identify him.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office will investigate the incident.
It was the first officer-involved shooting for the backup officer who fired the shot. ABPD officers do not currently wear body cameras.
“This is a terrible thing to have happen at Atlantic Beach. This is typically a quiet community. We have not had an officer-involved shooting in over 20 years,” Gualillos said.
“To see the yellow tape and all these police officers and find out what happened, it’s freaking shocking,” said Michael Murphy, who works in Atlantic Beach.
News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson explained how it was possible for someone to overpower an officer.
“If a person catches an officer off-guard, he’s not on his toes, it can happen,” Jefferson said. “Given the climate that we’re in right now in the nature of policing ... everything that an officer does now is being recorded by something or someone.”
Police are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or may have cellphone video of the incident to call police.