Judge orders attempted murder charge to stand for man accused of assaulting officer outside Jacksonville Walmart

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man who was arrested and faces a charge of attempted murder for assaulting a police officer Thursday outside the Walmart Supercenter on Philips Highway waived his first court appearance Friday.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told News4JAX that Joseph Merrill, 40, was arrested after he assaulted an officer who was called to the store about a reported shoplifting. According to the arrest report, Merrill walked past the lost-control staffer and left the store with at least $176 worth of merchandise in a duffel bag.

In court, the prosecution wanted Merrill held without bond, saying he poses a significant threat to the public and is a flight risk. The defense argued Merrill only used his hands to attack the officer, which is assault, not attempted murder.

The prosecutor told the judge Merrill “was on top of her, bashing her head in, causing her significant injury.” He said Merrill prevented her from getting help and the detective who subdued him “saved the victim’s life.”

The judge ruled that the attempted murder charge stands and set Merrill’s bond at $500,000. The bond on the other charges was set at $310,000, making a total bond of $810,000.

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According to an arrest report, an officer confronted Merrill on the sidewalk in front of the store. That’s when, police said, he knocked the officer down, started beating her, and also snatched her radio off her uniform and threw it away, which prevented her from calling for help.

The officer’s alert button also went off in the area.

The Sheriff’s Office said due to Marsy’s Law, police are unable to identify the officer.

A detective was driving along Philips Highway and saw the officer being assaulted. The report said the detective drove over the median to assist the officer. Merrill, the report states, then took off running and the detective chased him down.

The officer was bleeding from the mouth and couldn’t talk clearly as a result of the assault, the report said. Police said she was hospitalized for treatment of serious injuries.

“She sustained some pretty serious injuries. I don’t like the way that it happened. I’m glad that the individual responsible has been caught. And he’s now he’s going to face justice words the way he should and get what he deserves,” Sheriff T.K. Waters told News4JAX Friday. “We are going to work very hard to make sure our officers are as safe as possible. But we know when we take this job, that’s a possibility.”

In addition to being charged with attempted murder, Merrill is also facing charges of resisting with violence, depriving the officer of a communications device, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and shoplifting.

The possession of a weapon charge is because of the discovery of a small hatchet in the duffel bag.

Merrill’s arraignment date is March 16.

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