TAMPA, Fla. — The Black man in Florida deputies’ custody Thursday morning was unarmed, handcuffed and silent, refusing to identify himself.
That refusal apparently enraged Sgt. Janak Amin, a 21-year veteran with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“He said those words?” a reporter asked Chronister Friday during a news conference.
“He said those words,” Chronister said.
Amin, 51, was fired and charged Friday with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was booked into the county jail, from which he posted bail of $2,000 and was released.
Chronister told reporters that even though the assault victim was an arrestee, “he is entitled to the same protections and rights of any victim of a crime.”
The sheriff detailed what he called Amin’s “despicable” behavior and the fact that the victim, who he did not identify, was not being uncooperative.
“The bottom line is, there is no reason, no rationale or justification why anyone had to point a gun at his head and threaten his life simply because he refused to identify himself,” he said. “And, per his statement, he refused to identify himself because he was scared to death.”
Watch Sheriff Chad Chronister speak about former Sgt. Janak Amin’s actions below, courtesy of ABC Action News in Tampa.
Amin was turned in by his fellow deputies, the sheriff said.
“It’s important to share with you that the complainants in this case are all fellow law enforcement officers who acted immediately and reported this incident,” Chronister said. “Before I go into the events of the last 24 hours, I want to thank the deputies who immediately came forward to report this most egregious incident.
“We expect, we demand, that our deputies uphold the highest level of professionalism, and that means intervening when another law enforcement officer, even a supervisor, betrays the public trust, and theirs.”
Chronister explained Friday that Amin and other deputies were taking the victim into custody because he had walked away from a substance abuse and mental health treatment center, where he had been “inadvertently transported … from (the county) detention facility.”
“This individual was escorted to the ground after he was found hiding behind a trailer,” the sheriff said.
Lying on his stomach and handcuffed, the man refused to confirm his identity.
“He was not armed and made no aggressive actions towards our deputies,” Chronister said.
Amin knelt beside the man and pointed his firearm inches from the man’s head, threatening to kill him, Chronister said.
The other deputies, alarmed at Amin’s actions, did a “beautiful job” of de-escalating the situation, the sheriff said. A corporal on the scene told Amin they had “rapid ID” equipment with them that could easily identify the man through fingerprints.
“The one detective on scene said, ‘Sergeant, I know who he is. That’s the person. It’s my case. That’s him, that’s him,’ trying to deescalate, again, the situation,” Chronister said.
The detective then pulled the victim to his feet and walked him away from Amin and toward a vehicle.
Chronister said the detective and deputies followed a recent refresher training course requiring them to intervene when they witness a colleague using excessive force. Law enforcement agencies across the country have implemented such policies in the wake of the May 25 police killing of George Floyd.
Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd begged him to stop and three other officers watched. All four men have been fired and charged in Floyd’s death, which ignited massive Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S.
Chronister told reporters that the intervention policy has been in place for years in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office but that he recently required all his deputies to review a training video on the policy.
See a recent training video from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office below.
The sheriff described Amin’s career prior to Thursday’s incident as “exemplary.”
“I don’t think this incident is indicative of who Sgt. Amin is,” Chronister said. “It only takes one incident to violate that oath that you take and violate the public’s trust and, again, break the law.”
Amin had no prior complaints of excessive force, but Bay News 9 reported that Amin and another deputy were involved in a fatal shooting in Riverview in July 2007.
In that case, former Sarasota firefighter William Joe Best was allegedly waving a gun around in his front yard. According to Tampa Bay Times archives, Best, 45, had been drinking most of the day and had multiple handguns and a shotgun inside his mobile home, where he barricaded himself.
Hours later, as a SWAT team entered the home, Best slipped out through a hole in the floor and crawled into the yard, where he aimed a shotgun at deputies, the Times reported.
When he refused to drop the weapon, Amin and another deputy fatally shot him. Best’s family, however, believed he was trying to turn himself in when he was killed.
“His own flesh and blood had to watch it,” Debbie Parrott, the sister of Best’s fiancée, told the Times.
Hillsborough County internal affairs investigators ruled the shooting was justified, Bay News 9 said.
Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a third-degree felony in Florida. If convicted, Amin faces up to five years in prison.
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