A sergeant with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Fla., has been fired and charged with assault after he pointed a gun at an unarmed man for refusing to give his name, the sheriff said.
The man was on the ground and in police custody at the time, Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference on Friday.
Deputies who witnessed the incident reported Sgt. Janak Amin’s “egregious action” to supervisors. Sergeant Amin, who had been with the sheriff’s office for 21 years, was fired and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Sheriff Chronister said. He was released after posting a $2,000 bond, the sheriff said.
“Sergeant Amin’s actions, the violation of public trust and dishonoring of his oath to serve and protect is despicable,” Sheriff Chronister said.
The victim, a Black man whose name the authorities said they would not disclose, had been accidentally released from jail and was taken to a substance abuse and mental health treatment center, Sheriff Chronister said. The man left the treatment center on Thursday morning, and deputies found him hiding behind a trailer in North Tampa, the sheriff said.
The man was taken into custody, and the sheriff’s deputies placed him on the ground, chest down, as they attempted to identify him, the sheriff said. The man refused to confirm his identity, and Sergeant Amin drew his gun, pointed it at the man’s head and threatened his life, the sheriff said. The victim was not armed and “made no aggressive actions,” Sheriff Chronister said.
The man “was in fear for his life,” the sheriff said, and has been cooperating with the authorities.
“Even though the victim of this crime is an arrestee, he is entitled to the same protections and rights of any victim of a crime,” Sheriff Chronister said.
A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said in a statement that race was not a factor in the episode. The authorities were unable to locate video footage of the encounter, and the spokeswoman said the deputies were not wearing body cameras. Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies do not currently wear body cameras but will be doing so “in the near future,” the spokeswoman said.
The dismissal of Sergeant Amin comes as police departments across the nation are being urged to revamp or adopt “duty to intervene” policies in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Such policies require officers to intervene if they see a colleague endangering a member of the public.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has had a similar “duty to act” policy since 2007, the spokeswoman said. Deputies are required to report when they see a fellow deputy using unreasonable or excessive force, and to intervene to de-escalate the situation, according to department guidelines.
“We respect, we demand that our deputies uphold the highest level of professionalism,” Sheriff Chronister said at the news conference. “And that means intervening when another law enforcement officer, even a supervisor, betrays the public trust and theirs.”
In 2007, Sergeant Amin and another deputy were investigated after they were involved in the fatal shooting of a 45-year-old former firefighter who pointed a shotgun at them after he emerged from a mobile home where he had barricaded himself, according to news reports. The State Attorney for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, which includes Hillsborough County, investigated and found the shooting to be justified, according to an Internal Affairs report released by the Sheriff’s Office.
Sergeant Amin could not be reached for comment. The Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said that he was being represented by a lawyer, but that she did not know the lawyer’s name.
“There is no question, this incident is detestable and not representative of who we are as a law enforcement agency,” Sheriff Chronister said.
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