A Florida sheriff’s deputy has resigned after he pulled a gun on a pregnant Black woman during a traffic stop as her three distressed children watched on and recorded the tense interaction.
The incident happened Aug. 12 just before midnight when Bradford County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Desue tried to pull over Ebony Washington, of Jacksonville, the sheriff's office said.
Washington was speeding at 75 mph in a 55-mph zone as she drove north on State Road 200, the sheriff's office said, and when Desue indicated that she should pull over, she didn't stop her vehicle. She put on her hazard lights, slowed and drove until she pulled into a gas station in front of a convenience store.
Desue followed her with his siren and emergency lights on and ordered her to stop. At one point, Desue said over the patrol vehicle’s PA system, “Pull the vehicle over or I will put you into the ground!” the sheriff's office said.
Body camera video of the incident released by the sheriff’s department and shared by John M. Phillips, Washington’s attorney, showd Desue shouting to Washington’s car, “If you make any movement, that’ll be your last mistake you’re going to make.”
He then emerges from his vehicle with his gun pointed at her and yells for her to get out.
Washington is seen with her arms out of the window of her vehicle. She says the door is locked, and Desue says: “Unlock it. I’m not worried. I’ve got my gun on you.”
Washington then gets out of the car with her arms raised.
Desue approaches her, has her turn and points his gun to her back. She explains that she has three kids in the car and is pregnant and didn’t want to stop in the “middle of nowhere.”
Desue cuts her off, saying: “Your excuse means nothing to me right now. I don’t want to hear it.”
He handcuffs Washington, who says she hasn't been pulled over before.
After being handcuffed and taken near the rear of the police vehicle, Washington continues to try to explain that she didn’t stop because it was dark and that she had put her hazard lights on and driven to a well-lit area because she didn’t want her kids to be uncomfortable or scared.
Desue yells: “I don’t care about the why! Just shut up! I don’t care about the why!"
Another officer arrives to check on Washington’s children, and she tells that officer why she didn't stop. She eventually apologizes and says it wasn’t the best decision.
By the end of the video, tensions seem to de-escalate, and Desue takes her back to the car and uncuffs her, saying he will write up a citation for unlawful speed.
The body camera video ends with him handing her the citation and saying: "You’re a mother, you got kids, you’ve got to get them home. Let's be done with this, OK?”
One of Washington's children recorded the encounter. One of them is heard crying in the video.
Washington's attorney shared a copy of Desue's discipline file from the sheriff's office, which described the incident and included his letter of resignation, dated Aug. 16.
Desue had been employed by the sheriff’s office since March 2020.
The file showed he received a letter of reprimand involving a separate incident on April 13 and was allowed one last chance to continue working with the office.
The file included subsequent disciplinary measures stating that as a result of the August incident, Desue’s last-chance agreement to keep his job was considered to have been violated and that his resignation was to be accepted.
Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith told NBC affiliate WTLV of Jacksonville that Washington did nothing wrong and that Desue's behavior violated the department's policies.
“She does exactly what I would tell my daughter, my wife, my neighbor, anybody else that may feel uncomfortable: You reduce your speed, you turn on your flashing lights, be acknowledged,” Smith said.
“Deputy Desue should have cleared it, checked with the children, make sure they’re safe. Why were they upset?” Smith continued. "So a lot of things that should have been done weren’t done. And at the end of the day, we determined that was something that we didn’t need representing us or protecting our community.”
Washington told WTLV: "I was so nervous. I was so scared. I mean, the gun part was extreme for me.”
Desue couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. It's not clear whether he has legal representation.
Phillips, Washington’s attorney, said in a statement that his client is “still suffering from the effects of her trauma, her life flashing before her and her kids eyes and the situation as a whole.”
"She is relieved Deputy Desue resigned (in lieu of termination), but is concerned about him doing the same at another agency," Phillips said.
Washington received a traffic ticket. Phillips said he plans to file a lawsuit.
CORRECTION (August 25, 2022, 5:03 P.M.): A previous version of this article misidentified Bradford County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Desue's race. He is biracial, not white, according to the sheriff's department.