A Florida police officer who fired a single shot at an unarmed suspect during a traffic stop Monday will not be placed on leave, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.
Assistant Chief Chris Butler told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that Officer J.C. Garcia fired a single shot at 29-year-old Brian Dennison while under the mistaken belief that Dennison was holding a gun.
WJXT reports Dennison had his 6-year-old daughter with him in the car at the time.
Garcia was said to have observed Dennison speeding through a parking lot in his green Ford Focus on Monday night when he began following the vehicle. A police report, obtained by WTLV, indicates Garcia then saw Dennison drive through stop sign and then nearly hit a car while driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
At that time Garcia is said to turned on his emergency lights and siren.
Dennison eventually pulled into a parking space in an apartment complex. Just as Garcia pulled his patrol car in behind him, Dennison began to get out of the car. Garcia is said to have then drawn his weapon and fired a single shot. Butler explained Tuesday that at nearly the same moment he was firing the shot, Garcia realized Dennison was not armed and waved the gun off so the shot would not hit the man.
No one was harmed in the incident.
Nacoya Ransom, the mother of Dennison’s young daughter, said the girl was scared by the gun shot. Ransom explained to the Florida Times-Union that Dennison was rushing the girl home because she was having an asthma attack and needed an inhaler.
“She couldn’t breathe,” Ransom said.
“She just thought that they were going to shoot her,” she added. “And she was afraid for her dad.”
The incident report obtained by WTLV makes no mention of Garcia — a five-year veteran — firing his weapon. When asked why, JSO representative, Melissa Bujeda, explained that the shooting is being treated as a separate incident.
The department’s Cold Case Unit is conducting the investigation into the shooting.
Garcia has not been placed on leave pending that investigation.
"Being placed on leave is not automatic for every situation. It is up to staff to determine what will be done. Each investigation is unique and investigated as such," Bujeda explained.
Dennison was arrested at the scene for knowingly driving with a suspended license. He was last reported to be in custody at the Duval County jail, in lieu of $1,866 bail.