COCOA, FL – Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey seemingly has had enough of how local media allegedly “manipulating” stories to discredit his agency after going after media with “both barrels” after claims his deputies fired a Taser at an unarmed autistic male.
Sheriff Ivey, whose agency released dash camera footage of the incident, alleges the teen was armed with a knife at the time of the incident.
Brevard County Sheriff’s Office received reports of a male carrying a large knife in a residential area who was allegedly attempting to break into a home on December 22nd. When deputies arrived on the scene, they saw Jarquez Johnson, walking around the caller’s house while having what appears to be a large knife in his right hand.
As they approached Johnson, the Sheriff’s Office alleges the deputies observed a twelve-inch knife in his right hand. When they confronted the man, they initially approached him with their firearms out, however, later transitioned to less lethal weapons (Taser) when they determined Johnson was suffering from some type of mental crisis.
Deputies reported giving several loud verbal commands to Johnson telling him to drop the weapon. After repeated orders were ignored, fearing for the safety of themselves and those in the area, used the Taser to gain compliance, causing Johnson to fall to the ground where he could safely be taken into custody.
After securing Johnson in handcuffs, community members present at the time of Johnson’s detainment became irate, yelling at deputies for tasing Johnson because he had autism. Their actions, according to the Sheriff, caused deputies to load Johnson up in a patrol vehicle and take him to a hospital where he was involuntarily committed for a mental health evaluation.
Deputies searched the area seeking the knife they allegedly saw Johnson holding, however, were unable to find one at the scene. It is unknown if one of the community members took the knife when the crowd began to form or if it was lost while deputies were securing the man.
Sheriff Ivey’s deputies immediately came under attack by members of the media claiming that there was no need to use a Taser on Johnson as he suffers from Autism. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office a local media outlet, Florida Today, wrote an article which, according to Sheriff Ivey, was misleading at best.
Sheriff Ivey took to “Truth Be Told,” which was created by his agency, to “set the record straight.” He said:
“Now, as everyone knows, our agency created “Truth Be Told” to set the record straight whenever someone in the media lies about our Deputies or intentionally misleads the public in an effort to undermine the confidence our citizens have in our agency.
“Ok let’s be honest, when I say someone in the media, I am actually talking about Florida Today as for the past 10 years as Sheriff of Brevard County, I have tolerated and often shook my head in disbelief at the onslaught of attacks against me and our agency from their reporters.
“On most occasions, I don’t even respond to their stories…but let there be no doubt when those same reporters at Florida Today write malicious and misleading stories that attack the integrity of our agency or these brave men and women who protect our community, I am going to respond, and I am going to give it right back to them, with both barrels.”
The Sheriff then took immediate issue with the title Florida Today used for the article written about Johnson being tased:
“Brevard Deputies Say They Tasered An Autistic Man With a Knife. So, Where’s [the] Weapon?”
Sheriff Ivey alleged that the title of the article was meant to inflame the situation between his deputies and the community and allude that the deputies were lying when they said they saw a knife. He then corrects part of the article stating that deputies were not responding to a “prowler call” and that they were responding to a man armed with a knife. He said:
“Ok, well, for the record, we weren’t responding to a routine prowler call, instead we were actually responding to a man with a knife, who, as the witness described, was trying to get in the windows and door of a home that was only occupied by children, where the emergency 911 caller said he did not belong.”
The Sheriff then notes that Florida Today had to point out that the area where this incident occurred was “a heavily black, low-income neighborhood.” He then asks the obvious question:
“Can someone please tell me how that is relative to the story other than to try and make our Deputies appear prejudiced? I mean, really…if this alleged act by our Deputies were so egregious, would it really matter what neighborhood or socio-economic status it occurred in?
“Of course not, but again the article wasn’t written to reflect the truth, it was written to inflame and undermine the community’s confidence in our agency. Unfortunately, Florida Today no longer writes to inform, but instead, they now misinform in an effort to incite.”
Sheriff Ivey also pointed out that as the article continues, their “expert” noted the actions taken by the deputy were “most likely justified.” He said:
“Their own expert says our actions were most likely justified and yet they still write an article that attempts to make it appear our Deputies did something wrong in their response to the incident?”
Sheriff Ivey then aimed at one of the local city leaders, Cocoa City Councilman Alex Goins, who called on the Sheriff’s Office to institute body cameras so that the incident would have been captured on video, obviously not realizing that it had been. The Sheriff said:
“[T]his is where Cocoa City Councilman Alex Goins decides to insert himself by calling on me to institute body cameras so that they would know what happened. I guess Florida Today neglected to tell Mr. Goins before he made a fool of himself that the entire incident was captured on a Dash Camera video recording from our Patrol Cars, we, we actually do know…exactly what happened.”
After firing off on Councilman Goins, Sheriff Ivey went back to Florida Today who quoted Johnson’s mother who said there was no reason for him to be armed and that he has no criminal record and “rarely causes trouble.” The Sheriff’s response was pretty straightforward saying:
“Unfortunately, and while my heart goes out to this mom, that’s not a completely true statement as while he does not have a criminal record, he has been Baker Acted for acts of violence and threatening to harm himself and others, including his mom, by our agency on three different occasions as an adult.
“In fact, to be exact, the mom herself has called our agency to respond to her home multiple times because her son was acting violently and destroying their home. On one occasion, back in 2019, he even swung at his mom and one of our Deputies who unfortunately had to taze him to get him in custody for the purpose of the Baker Act.”
Sheriff Ivey then notes, regardless of Johnson’s mental disorder, he was still posing a deadly threat that night while holding a large knife in his right hand, which is clearly captured on a dash camera, when the deputies encountered him. Sheriff Ivey, referencing the video, then says:
“As you could clearly see in the video, the subject was in possession of a deadly weapon, a long knife that perfectly matched the description provided in the 911 call. In fact, you could actually see the glare on the knife blade as it moved across the spotlight of our Deputies car so in spite of what the Florida Today tried to manipulate its readers into believing…there was a knife in the subject’s hands when we arrived and throughout the entire confrontation…
“What you can also clearly see and hear in the video was the way our Deputies responded to and handled this very critical incident involving a non-compliant armed subject with a knife. You can hear how our Deputies give him repeated commands to drop the knife and also witness that as their mental health training takes over, they shift gears, holster their firearms, and transition to less-than-lethal tools because they began to recognize that the subject may be experiencing some type of mental crisis.”
After praising the efforts of the deputies who were able to de-escalate the situation and take the subject into custody without any injuries being obtained, he turned his attention to Councilman Goins once more by saying:
“Maybe in the future, if you really want to know what happened…instead of trying to look important, try to actually be important and pick up the phone and call me to ask what actually happened!”
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