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Atlantic Beach police chief writes letter on officer-involved shooting

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ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Atlantic Beach Interim Police Chief Victor Gualillo wrote a letter about Thursday’s officer-involved shooting.

The letter was posted Sunday on the Atlantic Beach Police Department’s Facebook page.

“The events of July 16, 2020, changed many people’s lives, some more profoundly than others. I pray that whatever changed for each of us, we all find a way to heal from the incident and that some part of our lives and relationships will be in a better place despite the adversity,” the letter said.

An officer was beaten unconscious Thursday morning after responding to a call in front of the Panera Bread on Atlantic Boulevard near Penman Road. According to the Police Department, the officer was recovering at home on Friday but faces facial reconstructive surgery this week.

Police named the suspect in the beating as 19-year-old Jaden Perkins, who remained in the hospital under guard as of Friday as he recovered from a single gunshot wound after being shot by a backup officer responding to the scene.

“The officers involved in the incident are excellent examples of the professional and caring individuals that make up the Atlantic Beach Police Department. They were responding to a request for help from a member of our community as every Officer across our nation has done and will continue to do as long as our profession exists. This call was, however, one of those that all cops know can happen but we all pray will never occur on our watch,” Gualillo’s letter said.

In the letter, Gualillo said both officers involved are “great individuals, strong in spirit and full of compassion and conviction to do what is right.”

He also shared what happened immediately after the incident.

“Whenever these two were asked if they were OK, their first response to everyone was they were fine but they wanted us to check on their partner to make sure they were OK,” Gualillo wrote.

A letter from Interim Chief Victor Gualillo: The events of July 16, 2020 changed many people’s lives, some more...

Posted by Atlantic Beach Police Department on Sunday, July 19, 2020

The attack

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,” Gualillo said Thursday.

When the second Atlantic Beach officer arrived, according to Gualillo, 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, according to Gualillo, 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, Gualillo said.

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.