South Florida Deputy Wins $200K in Lawsuit Against ATF
This lawsuit stemmed from an incident that occurred in 2018 during Hurricane Irma. Sheriff’s Sergeant Mark Jones was on patrol in an unmarked department vehicle. He had just helped emergency crews remove debris from the roadways when he came upon another vehicle, an SUV, blocking the roadway. He honked his horn several times.
Unbeknownst to Jones, the vehicle was populated by two ATF agents. In a comment, Jones told the press, “Now I know what evil looks like behind a badge.” In an age where overzealous police are killing too many Americans, it’s always a good feeling to know that someone in law enforcement understands.
What Happened Next?
Jones, who was on-duty, was sick of waiting for the ATF agents to move their vehicle, so he pulled around them. The ATF agents pulled him over. Jones told them he was in the Sheriff’s Department, but the ATF agents aggressively approached his vehicle. According to Jones, they then put a gun in his face and began cussing at him. They threw him on the hood of his vehicle and cuffed him. Eventually, they let him go. But Jones required surgery to repair his rotator cuff, missed time from work, and endured the pain and humiliation of being assaulted by law enforcement. Luckily, a neighbor recorded the entire incident on their phone.
Jones filed a lawsuit against the two ATF agents and the federal government. The ATF agents are protected by qualified immunity, so it was the taxpayers who ended up forking over $200,000 to pay for the now-Lieutenant’s medical expenses. Jones believes that they wanted to teach him a lesson for daring to honk his horn at them. An internal report issued by the ATF cleared both agents of wrongdoing. Jones said that he did not file suit until after he heard that there would be no disciplinary action against the agents in this case.
Jones said the settlement would allow him to move on from the incident.
The ATF’s Side of the Story
The ATF’s side of the story is exactly what you’d expect. They claimed that Jones was endangering the lives of utility workers by driving too close to them and that he refused to follow commands that were issued by the ATF agents. An internal investigation conducted by the ATF said that the agents’ actions on the use of force were within policy and did not constitute an excessive use of force.
However, in Florida, a state that requires prosecutors to prove that a defendant did not have a reasonable fear for their lives when they fired a gun, the agents are very lucky that Jones didn’t just shoot them down when they rushed the car. It’s unlikely a Florida jury would have held him accountable.
Talk to a Miami Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured by the ATF or any other law enforcement agency without just cause, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. Call the Miami personal injury attorneys at the office of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your situation in greater detail.