JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An officer beaten unconscious Thursday morning after responding to a call in front of the Panera Bread on Atlantic Boulevard near Penman Road is recovering at home Friday but faces facial reconstructive surgery next week, according to the Atlantic Beach Police Department.
Police also named the suspect in the beating as 19-year-old Jaden Perkins, who remains in the hospital under guard as he recovers from a single gunshot wound after being shot by a backup officer responding to the scene. He is facing a charge of attempted murder and will be in court Aug. 3. His bond was set at $750,000.
Meanwhile, neighbors from Atlantic Beach, a close-knit, small beach town, showed their Atlantic Beach officers how much they appreciate what they do.
The community has rallied around the Atlantic Beach police and a GoFundMe account was set up under the name of Officer Down, saying “Let’s show this officer we appreciate the job he and his colleagues do every day.”
The Atlantic Beach Police Department said their hearts -- and countertops -- were overflowing.
Cards and flowers flooded in, and one little girl brought cookies Thursday. A representative from Proctor Ace Hardware stopped in to bring a plant and well wishes.
“When you hear of an officer down, that’s a big deal. And I just want to help,” said Marisa Carbone, who lives in Atlantic Beach.
Carbone started the GoFundMe account for the officer, even without knowing his name.
“This is a community. We like to think of ourselves as a community, and a small community at that, so when something bad happens, we all try to rally around and try to help,” Carbone said.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser echoed that sentiment, saying she was not surprised by the community’s generous response.
“I really am never surprised by how great our community is to step up, and people want to offer words of comfort and support and want to do things to help our police department,” Glasser said. “And generally, we have a very good relationship with our police department in Atlantic Beach. They are very much community-oriented, and we know them personally.”
Carbone set the initial GoFundMe goal of $1,000 for the family was surpassed in hours and donations reached nearly $6,000 by the end of the day Friday.
Perkins is accused of attacking the responding officer about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, knocking the officer unconscious.
“Witnesses in the area confirm that the officer was laying on the ground and the suspect was actively punching him,” Atlantic Beach Police Chief Victor 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, Gaulillo said.
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.
Gaulillo indicated the injured officer, who will not be identified, has been with ABPD for 18 months since retiring after 27 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“We anticipate he will recover, but it will be a while before he can come back to work,” Gaulillo 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.”
Police said Perkins did not appear to have a weapon. He has a Jacksonville address and no criminal charges other than a couple speeding tickets -- both written in Atlantic Beach.
“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,” Gaulillo said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office will investigate the incident.
The Panera Bread reopened Friday after remaining closed all day Thursday after the attack because the employees were shaken up.
“As a former law enforcement officer myself, I mean, I have to say that hearing about what happened yesterday was horrifying to me,” Glasser said, adding that the tragic event will serve as a learning experience for the city and the police department. “We are getting ready to engage in our budget workshops. We’re going to be looking at funds for community policing here so that our police can spend more time with people, engaging them, talking to them. We’re looking at technology issues. We had already budgeted for body cameras.”
Glasser, who’s a retired FBI special agent, said the body cameras have been purchased but the program is not yet in effect.