COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A group of demonstrators are demanding change in the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office following the release of dashcam video that recorded a controversial traffic stop.
The video was recorded on Oct. 23. Martinezz Bowman, 23, was bitten by a K-9 during the traffic stop and told News4Jax last Tuesday that he plans to sue the Sheriff’s Office. According to the notice of intent, the deputies had their guns drawn during the traffic stop.
Bowman is heard on video repeatedly asking the deputies if they are going to shoot him. A deputy yells repeatedly for Bowman to put his hands up, turn around and back toward him. Bowman told News4Jax he complied with the deputy’s demands.
“I wasn’t trying to run. He just let the dog go on me for nothing,” Bowman said in a previous interview with News4Jax.
Bowman is still recovering from his injury and told News4Jax he has another surgery planned.
Demonstrators on Monday gathered outside the Columbia County Courthouse. They said Bowman posed no threat to the deputies and they demanded change within the Sheriff’s Office, starting with Sheriff Mark Hunter, who they say condones tactics against people of color.
“Mr. Bowman was bit severely in October,” said Sylvester Warren III, who organized the protest. “It was the attitude of the sheriff to sweep it under the run.”
Warren III, a community activist, says the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the Black community in Columbia County is fractured, especially after learning no deputies involved in the traffic stop were disciplined for their actions.
“It’s done. It would take a new sheriff and a new administration. This sheriff and administration. No sir. You cannot regain the trust,” he said.
Bowman’s mother, Laquan, was also in attendance and is demanding change.
“That was really uncalled for. I’m in law enforcement myself. I’m a correction’s officer in Baker County. We are taught to deescalate situations and not escalate situations,” she said.
On the day News4Jax obtained the footage, crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson inspected the video.
“What they just did, based on their actions, based on the video, based on the reports, they violated every policy they have,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson said the incident was not treated as a typical stop for a tail light.
“When he came out and said what he said in that interview, I was more frustrated because I knew we were on the right side of things,” Warren III said.
No criminal charges have been filed against Bowman. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has declined to make a statement due to the pending lawsuit by Bowman.
Demonstrators shift focus to Lake City police chief
During the protest, Argatha Gilmore, the police chief of the Lake City Police Department, stood in silence as demonstrators verbally attacked her, making it difficult for her to speak with News4Jax.
“I don’t think you can hear me because I can’t hear myself,” she said.
“She refuses to talk to the people, but she will go talk to the news. That’s what we’re dealing with,” a demonstrator is heard saying.
Protestors blame Gilmore, who is Black, for allowing a white police officer to remain on the force after they say he made comments on video about policing African Americans differently.
“Chief Gilmore has two faces. The face you all see in the church and the one she is showing you today,” Warren III said.
After comments made during the protest, Gilmore declined an interview. She said she wanted Lake City residents to know that she would like to address their concerns in a different setting.