JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has released body camera video of the moment a police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old last Fourth of July on the Westside.
On July 4, 2020, Axel Perez, who police said chased rescue personnel with a machete, was fatally shot on Monroe Smith Road, north of 103rd Street.
According to investigators, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department was called to the home after a witness reported that Perez was unresponsive after he fell to the ground while lighting fireworks. By the time rescue personnel arrived, Perez had regained consciousness and neighbors said he was “acting crazy and running around,” according to the State Attorney’s Office report on its investigation into the shooting. The report said Perez chased and threatened firefighters with a machete and then JFRD called JSO for assistance.
In the body camera video, an officer, identified in the report as Officer Robert Gutcher, can be heard yelling “drop it” and firing his gun as Perez steps out of a door of a home with a machete. Investigators said Perez was shot three times.
In January, the State Attorney’s Office ruled that the officer’s use of deadly force was justified.
“Our courts are reluctant to substitute hindsight for on-the-spot, split-second decisions made by officers in the line of duty,” the report said.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson watched the body camera video on Wednesday. He agreed the officer’s action was justified.
“He can’t wait for that person to come at him with a machete,” Jefferson said. “So he did not break protocol. He did not break the law in the use of deadly force.”
Yesenia Soriano was there with neighbors who were lighting off fireworks the night of the shooting. She said Perez started acting crazy and chased her at one point.
“Then he was coming at me with a machete,” Soriano recounted. “And after that, I just heard some gun shooting.”
She said she understands police had to secure the scene but “they should have found another way.”
“At least they could have shot him in the legs or Tase him, in my opinion, because it was just a kid,” Soriano said.
Jefferson said officers are trained to stop a threat, not shoot people in the leg. As far as why a Taser wasn’t used, Jefferson said: “The person he was accosting had a lethal weapon. You don’t meet lethal with a non-lethal weapon.”