Sugarloaf Key, FL — A South Florida sheriff’s deputy is accusing two Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents of assaulting him days after Hurricane Irma landed in 2017.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Jones was on patrol in his unmarked department pickup truck.
In the first days after Irma’s landfall, it was ‘all hands on deck.’ Jones said, “I was working days and nights. I mean, we didn’t get much sleep.”
A Violent Encounter
He had just finished helping remove debris from Sugarloaf Key when he saw an SUV stopped.
It was odd, because it was stopped in the middle of the road.
Jones pulled up behind it, and the folks inside didn’t signal for help, but they didn’t move out of the way, either. Jones said his impression was, “I’m like, ‘I wonder if they know we’re back here,’ so I honked my horn.”
The SUV didn’t move, so Jones pulled his pickup truck around it and kept going. But then the SUV appeared in his rear-view mirror with lights and sirens. Curious who could be pulling HIM over, Jones stopped. Using his loudspeaker, Jones said, “I said, ‘Sheriff’s Office, why are you stopping me?’ They get out of their vehicle, and they are on a beeline for me. I mean, they’re coming at me, and I’m like, ‘Sheriff’s Office.’ I keep yelling ‘Sheriff’s Office, why are you stopping me?’”
Unfortunately for Jones, he was not in uniform. Also unfortunately for him, the two men in the SUV were ATF agents. The two men were also supposed to be in the area helping residents.
The two ATF agents were aggressive from the first second. Jones said, “The guy put his gun within inches of my face. Cussing, using profanity the entire time. They threw me over the hood. They put my arm behind my back, and took my wrist up to the back of my neck. I knew the second they injured me.”
In the end, the agents let Sergeant Jones go, but only after they tore several muscles in his shoulders. Jones later needed surgery and was out of work for four months.
Inappropriate Use of Force
Was this necessary? Jones said it was not. “They were on a mission. Their mission was ‘Teach this guy a lesson for honking his horn. We’re federal agents. How dare you?’ I went from being able to help people to being beat up by other law enforcement.”
Thankfully, somebody witnessed the event and captured it on video. That person, who will remain nameless, gave their opinion. “If you ask me, personally, it was uncalled for, to the extent where he pushed the suspect or the other officer up against the vehicle, had his arm under control behind his back, shoved him down on the vehicle. At one point, guns were drawn.”
The ATF Denies Anything Wrong
Jones is now involved in a lawsuit against the Federal Govt and the two ATF agents, Luis Arias and Jason Wilson. In classic fashion, the ATF filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In it, the ATF agents’ attorney wrote: “In the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane, the SAs were justified in drawing their weapons and placing hands on Jones until they could positively establish that he was a member of the MCSO…”
To that, Jones replies:
“Like I said, I have worked with the best men and women in law enforcement, and to see what just happened to me has changed me forever. OK, I see what good is, and I have seen what evil looks like behind a badge.”
Jones is back at work, but his impression of the ATF is forever changed.
You know, if the ATF can’t control themselves when working with another branch of law enforcement, it’s scary to think what could happen. After all, the next person they approach this way isn’t a sheriff’s deputy and there is no video footage of the event, it would be there word against a citizen’s.