Florida deputy fires weapon after mistaking sound of acorn hitting patrol car for gunshot


(CRESTVIEW, Fla.) — A Florida deputy is seen firing his weapon repeatedly at his patrol vehicle after mistaking the sound of an acorn hitting the roof of the car for a muffled gunshot, according to video released alongside a sheriff’s office investigation.

Newly released body camera footage of the November 2023 incident shows the dramatic moments the Okaloosa County deputy shot at his patrol vehicle while a handcuffed suspect was inside.

“I’m hit! I’m hit!” the deputy, Jesse Hernandez, can be heard yelling, though no one was shooting at him.

As he stumbled to the ground, Hernandez yelled “Shots fired!” four times, according to the video and an internal investigation conducted by by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards. He then opens fire on his vehicle.

A sergeant with the sheriff’s office also fired her weapon multiple times at the patrol vehicle, believing Hernandez was in danger, according to the report.

After the sergeant asked if he was OK, Hernandez responded, “I’m good, I feel weird but I’m good,” the footage shows.

The two had responded to a report of a stolen vehicle at a residence near Fort Walton Beach on Nov. 12, 2023, according to the report. A woman reported that her boyfriend was refusing to return her vehicle and had been calling and texting her threats, including “what appeared to be a firearm suppressor pointing at the dash of the victim’s vehicle,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

The boyfriend was detained, searched, handcuffed and placed in the rear of Hernandez’s patrol vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.

While approaching the vehicle to conduct another search, Hernandez told investigators that he heard what he believed to be a “suppressed weapon off to the side,” according to the report.

“At the same time, I felt an impact on my right side, like upper torso area,” he said in an interview on Nov. 15, 2023, according to the report.

Hernandez and the sergeant both fired their weapons at the patrol car until their firearms were emptied, according to the report.

The boyfriend was uninjured and no weapon was located, the sheriff’s office said.

“The audible sound Deputy Hernandez reported can be heard on body cam video and witnesses also attested they heard the sound they thought could have been a muffled gunshot,” the sheriff’s office said.

During the interview, investigators informed Hernandez that what he heard was an acorn, according to the report. Asked if what he thought he heard was actually the noise of the acorn striking the roof of his patrol vehicle, Hernandez responded, “I’m not gonna say no,” according to the report.

“What I heard sounded what I think would be louder than an acorn hitting the roof of the car, but there’s obviously an acorn hitting the roof of the car,” he said, according to the report.

The investigation determined that Hernandez’s use of force was “not objectively reasonable,” the sheriff’s office said. He resigned during the course of the investigation on Dec. 4, 2023, nearly a year after joining the force, according to the sheriff’s office.

ABC News has reached out to Hernandez for comment.

The sergeant’s use of force was found to be “objectively reasonable” and she was exonerated, the sheriff’s office said.

Both were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, according to Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden.

Aden said they “understand this situation was traumatic” for the man detained in the patrol vehicle and are “thankful” he wasn’t injured. The office has incorporated this incident into their training “to try to ensure nothing similar happens again,” the sheriff said.

“Though [Hernandez’s] actions were ultimately not warranted, we do believe he felt his life was in immediate peril and his response was based off the totality of circumstances surrounding this fear,” Aden said in a statement. “Just as we have an obligation to protect our officers so they can go home safely to their families, law enforcement has the same obligation to any citizen being investigated for a crime.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.