Florida deputy resigns after pulling gun on pregnant Black mother during traffic stop

A white Florida deputy has resigned after pulling a gun on a Black pregnant woman during a traffic stop as her three distressed children watched on and recorded the tense interaction. 

The incident unfolded Aug. 12 just before midnight when Bradford County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jacob Desue tried to pull over Ebony Washington, from Jacksonville, according to the sheriff’s office.

Washington was speeding at 75 mph in a 55 mph zone as she drove north on State Road 200, the sheriff’s office said, but when Desue indicated she pull over, she didn’t stop her vehicle. She put on her hazard lights, slowed down and drove until she pulled into a gas station in front of the convenience store. 

Desue followed her with his siren and emergency lights on and ordered her to stop. At one point Desue said via 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 footage of the incident released by the sheriff’s department and shared by John M. Phillips, Washington’s attorney, showed Desue shout to Washington’s car, “If you make any movement, that’ll be your last mistake you’re going to make.”

He then emerged from his vehicle with his gun pointed at her and yelled for her to come out. 

Washington was seen with her arms out of the window of her vehicle. She said the door was locked and Desue said, “Unlock it, I’m not worried, I’ve got my gun on you.”

Washington then exited the car with her arms raised. 

Desue approached her, had her turn and pointed his gun to her back. She explained that she has three kids in the car and is pregnant and did not want to stop in the “middle of nowhere.” 

Desue cut her off saying, “Your excuse means nothing to me right now. I don’t want to hear it.”

He proceeded to handcuff her, and Washington said she hadn’t been pulled over before. 

After being handcuffed and brought near the rear of the police vehicle, Washington continued to try to explain that she didn’t stop because it was dark out and she put her hazard lights on and drove to a well lit area because she didn’t want her kids to be uncomfortable or scared. 

Desue is heard yelling, “I don’t care about the why! Just shut up! I don’t care about the why!”

Another officer arrived to check on Washington’s children and she explained to that officer why she didn’t stop. She eventually apologized and said it wasn’t the best decision on her part. 

By the end of the footage, tensions seemed to de-escalate and Desue took her back to the car and uncuffed her, saying he would write up a citation for unlawful speed.

The body camera footage ends with him handing her the citation saying: “You’re a mother, you got kids, you’ve got to get them home, let’s be done with this okay?”

One of Washington’s children filmed the encounter. One of her kids is heard crying in the footage.

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 violated and his resignation was to be accepted.  

Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith told NBC affiliate WTLV of Jacksonville that Washington did nothing wrong in the interaction and 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.”

Speaking to WTLV, Washington said, “I was so nervous. I was so scared. I mean the gun part was extreme for me.”

NBC News was unable to reach Desue for comment Tuesday afternoon. It’s not clear if he has legal representation.

Phillips told NBC News 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 in the incident. Phillips said he plans to file a lawsuit.