Cellphone video becomes key evidence in St. Augustine police shooting

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a deadly shooting involving St. Augustine Police officers that happened Sunday evening.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a deadly shooting involving St. Augustine Police officers that happened Sunday evening.

A cellphone video clip recorded by a witness shows the fatal exchange between a man who had been holding his gun to his head and a group of officers confronting him. The man killed was later identified as Jason Harold James, 47.

On Monday, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office released photos of the weapons recovered from the scene, including photos of two knives and a handgun.

One of two knives, along with a handgun, recovered from the scene of a deadly officer-involved shooting. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Five members of law enforcement, including three St. Augustine Police officers and one Sheriff’s Office deputy, discharged their firearms during the incident, according to the Sheriff’s Office:

  • St. Augustine Police Officer Sergeant Jonathan Marston (Hire Date: October 14, 2008)
  • St. Augustine Police Officer Ryan Rado (Hire Date: March 28, 2017)
  • St. Augustine Police Officer Jonathon Brown (Hire Date: March 23, 2015)
  • St. Augustine Police Officer Enrique Ortega (Hire Date: April 7, 2020)
  • St. Johns County Deputy Evan Martin (Hire Date: November 27, 2017)

It was the first officer-involved shooting for each of the individuals, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“This is an unfortunate situation for all involved. We ask that you keep each of these individuals in your thoughts and prayers including the deceased’s family,” said Sheriff Hardwick. “The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office recognizes the importance of mental health and the struggles of substance abuse. We encourage anyone who may be struggling or know of someone struggling to reach out for help.”

News4JAX spoke with law enforcement experts to learn how situations such as this can escalate so quickly.

James Brown is a retired Jacksonville police officer who served for over 30 years. He said while officers don’t expect to ever encounter Sunday evening’s situation, it’s certainly one they’ve trained hard for.

“Anytime officers are responding to calls for service, they have to take into account that the information they have initially can change quickly as the situation changes with the individual,” said Brown.

According to video footage, you can see the situation escalated rather quickly when the man ditches the gun and starts running toward the officers with two knives drawn.

Witnesses who recorded the exchange said the event was a scary thing to record.

However, Brown says that video footage is an invaluable resource in making a difference during deadly police encounter investigations because it can enhance the witness and officers’ testimony and shows exactly what happened.

News4Jax also spoke with Dr. Laurence Miller, who has extensive experience studying these types of situations and authored the book “The Psychology of Police Deadly Force Encounters.”

“The training is you do not use deadly force unless it’s absolutely necessary. Most people would agree with that. But if it becomes necessary, then the goal is not to harm the person not even to kill them. It’s to stop them,” said Miller.

According to the St. Augustine Police Department, the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave while the sheriff’s department investigates.

Typically, the Department of Law Enforcement probes local police shootings. We reached out to them, but our calls and messages have been unreturned so far.

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