The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation into why deputies in a beefy armored vehicle performed a traffic stop on a Gainesville man who allegedly directed an obscene hand gesture toward them.
Lucas Jewell, 23, recorded his interaction on a cellphone with a team of ASO deputies in special-operations uniforms after the imposing Lenco Bear Cat Armored Personnel Carrier stopped his Ford Taurus at the Alachua County Headquarters Library downtown.
In an ASO report written for “informational purposes,” Deputy Charles Drake wrote that he and his colleagues were headed east along the 1400 block of West University Avenue in the APC when he spotted the Ford and its driver extending a hand gesture toward them. Inside the car, the deputy also saw a woman with her head in the lap of the driver, later identified as Jewell. The woman pulled up her head from Jewell’s lap and smiled at the deputies as the Ford passed. The deputies suspected the woman was performing an oral sex act on Jewell, the report states.
The deputies in the APC caught up with the Ford at the downtown library and made a traffic stop. Jewell told the deputies federal law permitted his use of the middle finger toward law enforcement and that the woman had her head in his lap because she was sleeping, the report states.
The incident – including the conduct of the deputies – was placed under investigation, according to ASO spokesman Art Forgey.
“We just saw the video this morning and we are investigating the incident,” Forgey said in an email.
Later he added, “It will look at everything from the stop, conduct and did (the deputies) violate any directives.”
Forgey also said ASO Sheriff Sadie Darnell could not comment on the incident because it is now part of an “active internal investigation.”
Eighth Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone said he has never heard of any investigation spurred by someone who made a rude hand gesture.
“I’m not aware of any case or criminal infraction that would constitute,” Cervone said. He added later, “There are some constitutional free speech issues involved here.”
Jewell’s video was posted to the website, Truth Voice, and it includes his explanation that he gestured at the ASO vehicle because he does not approve of having a militarized police force.
On Monday, Jewell told The Sun he plans to file a formal complaint.
“Is this really the ethics of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office? Is this how it conducts business?” Jewell said. “Have they really resorted to these bullying tactics?
“I thought they were above all this, but maybe I’m wrong.”
Jewell also said one of the deputies punched him shortly after he got out of his car. The informational report does not mention if Jewell was struck.