Charges dropped for almost all protestors arrested during downtown Jacksonville demonstration

Peaceful protesters call for an end to police brutality on Saturday. Later in the day, the scene downtown turned violent. (Lisa Rutland/Dopeffex Photo) (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State prosecutors have now dismissed charges for almost all of the demonstrators arrested over the first two days of protests in Jacksonville.

Protests erupted after the death of George Floyd but continued on for several weeks with thousands demanding police reform in Northeast Florida.

The state attorney finalized and filed a deposition Monday dismissing charges against 15 protesters who were arrested during the protest turned to unrest on Saturday, May 30. The State Attorney’s Office announced last month it had dismissed charges against 48 other protesters arrested Sunday, May 31, during the second day of protest in Jacksonville following Floyd’s death. The latest filing means the State Attorney’s Office has dismissed charges on at least 63 protesters arrested by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers in the first days of protests in downtown Jacksonville.

State prosecutors have now dismissed charges for almost all demonstrators arrested during the first two days of protests in Jacksonville.

The State Attorney’s Office wrote in a deposition that after reviewing a number of videos, including drone and aerial video of the protests, the office determined “there is not a probability of conviction or the above-listed defendants.”

Devyn Heinssen, 21, found out Tuesday his charge of unlawful assembly was dropped.

Video taken of Heinssen’s arrest shows him standing in front of officers as they begin to step forward on a street in downtown Jacksonville. Video shows an officer grab Heinssen as the line of officers reaches him.

“I just have one cop drag me forward,” Heinssen said.

Heinssen was charged with unlawful assembly. The police narrative on his incident report is identical to most of the others arrested that day stating “announcements were made for all individuals to disperse the area […] and the suspect failed to disperse from the area as ordered.”

The charge from Saturday’s protest is the only mark on his record in Jacksonville, records show.

“I remember being told before going to court by most of the police officers that we were probably going to get out today, that we weren’t going to get any days added and that we already had a bond set,” said Heinssen.

Heinssen’s bail was set as $753. The original amount is scratched out on his booking report. The next day in court, a judge offered an increased bail at double the amount, $1,503, or a sentence of five days in jail.

“Getting in court and hearing we were getting five days with time served and our bond was being doubled, it was very, I would say, defeating and frustrating for me,” said Heinssen.

The Sheriff’s Office is currently administratively reviewing at least one video that appears to show an officer punch a protester following Sunday’s largely peaceful demonstration. The Sheriff’s Office was not available for comment Wednesday.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told “The Morning Show” anchors Melanie Lawson and Jen Waugh in June the arrests of protesters were lawful despite the charges being dropped.

“As we began to talk about this early in the week and some of the challenges maybe with documentation on our end, that we’re working on fixing in these types of scenarios, that’s where you get that,” Williams said on “The Morning Show.” “So, it’s not the fact that we made arrests that were illegal. That’s not the case. But there’s a different threshold for her to have to prosecute those cases than there is for us to make the arrest in the street.”

The State Attorney’s Office has not dismissed charges against every demonstrator arrest during the first two protests in Jacksonville.

Ivan Zecher, who was arrested during the May 31 protest, is facing federal charges for allegedly bringing a Molotov cocktail to a protest in front of the courthouse. Martin Silvera-Albor is facing aggravated battery charges after allegedly attacking an officer during the May 30 protest.

Heinssen, who already spent two days in jail on unlawful assembly charges, said he’s relieved he won’t have to go back to jail or court.

“I went through almost losing my house due to being in jail. Could have lost my dog as well,” he said.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.