Two days after strangers posted her half-million-dollar bail, Diamonds Jonquil Ford clutched her 12-year-old daughter’s hand Monday outside the Duval County Courthouse as her family, attorney and community activists called on State Attorney Melissa Nelson to drop all charges against Ford in the shooting of a Jacksonville police officer.
Ford, 28, is accused of shooting the detective as the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents tried to serve a search warrant Sept. 28 at a house in the 7200 block of Rutledge Pearson Drive.
She has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer via discharging a firearm and possession with intent to sell or manufacture cannabis while armed, Duval County court records show.
Community activists, civil rights advocates, attorneys and other supporters hugged Ford at the courthouse during a peaceful demonstration where they demanded Nelson dismiss the charges against Ford, who they said believed she was defending herself against home invasion robbers.
Although they didn’t speak, Ford and her daughter joined about two dozen people protesting her arrest and accusing the Sheriff’s Office of systemic racism.
The crowd also demanded an immediate ban on “no-knock warrants,” which Ford’s attorney Stephen Kelly said are being used in Jacksonville under the title of “high-risk warrants.”
“Diamonds was unjustly, illegally arrested at the end of September when she defended herself against people she thought were intruders in a stand your ground state, which Florida is,” said Danielle Chanzes, an organizer with Dignity Power, a grassroots group of community activists. “And instead of being protected by the law, she was unlawfully, unjustly arrested and held in the Duval County jail over 130 days when we were able to post over a half-million dollars bail to free her.”
Describing themselves as a delegation, the demonstrators assert that “no-knock” warrants are unjust and illegal in Florida. Therefore, no-knock warrants should be banned and all charges dropped against Ford in the shooting, protest organizers said.
In addition, the demonstrators allege that Sheriff’s Office and Duval County justice system is fraught with illegal practices.
Kelly told the crowd that in Ford’s case, police are using the phrase “high-risk warrant” to violate the rights of the residents.
“So these law enforcement officers are entering into a residence that they know is high-risk, dangerous. Hence, they are entering the home with military-style weapons, they’re entering into her home with flash bombs …” said Kelly, adding that there were about 30 officers out there but none had body cameras on.
Jacksonville police deny the crowd’s accusations.
The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t use “no-knock” warrants, Assistant Chief Chris M. Brown told the Times-Union.
“As outlined in policy, officers are required to announce their presence, display their badges and insignia that identify them as law enforcement, and advise they have a search warrant for the premises,” Brown said.
Brown also said the prosecution of Ford’s case, “as with any other case after an arrest has been made,” is up to the State Attorney’s Office regarding whether charges are dismissed.
The State Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a Times-Union request for comment Monday.
The activists said that since Breonna Taylor was killed March 13, 2020, inside her apartment by Louisville, Ky., police during a drug investigation, community organizations and advocates nationwide have called for banning “no-knock” warrants. The use of those warrants has become the focus of protests as a result of Taylor’s death.
“Diamonds Ford could’ve been another Breonna Taylor,” said Nubian Roberts of Jacksonville, a member of Dignity Power and other grassroots civil and voting rights organizations, in a news release prior to the demonstration.
“The criminal justice system gives Black women and girls two options: be killed or be locked away for attempting to protect themselves,” Roberts said. “Black girls continue to be treated as criminals in the justice system in instances where they should be treated as victims. It’s sickening to see this happening in my county in real-time, but we will continue to fight.”
JSO detective shot serving warrant
The September shooting was the first of a Jacksonville police officer in more than four years, Times-Union records show.
Detective R.M. Nauss was shot multiple times, but his bullet-resistant ballistic vest saved his life, Sheriff Mike Williams said at the time.
Nauss has recovered and returned to duty, the Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Williams has said that police and DEA agents went to the Rutledge Pearson Drive house to serve a search warrant in an ongoing narcotics investigation.
When they arrived, the officers used a loudspeaker public address system to identify themselves as police and stated they were there to serve a warrant, Williams said.
Williams also said “during the execution of the warrant, gunshots came from inside the residence and the SWAT team member [Nauss] was shot multiple times but was able to return fire,” Wiliams said.
Nauss was outside the house when struck by shots fired from inside it, Williams said.
Nationwide groups support Ford
Community organizations nationwide including Dignity Power, The National Bail Fund Network and The Minnesota Freedom Fund worked together to raise her bail money.
Those groups also said they provided health services, housing, groceries, and holistic support services to help Ford during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Her 28-year-old fiancee, Anthony Christopher Gantt, was arrested with Ford on the day of the shooting and remains jailed, inmate records show.
Gantt also has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer – discharge of a firearm, and possession with intent to sell or manufacture cannabis while armed, according to court records.
Both Ford and Gantt were scheduled for court hearings Monday . She was slated for a pretrial hearing.
Gantt was set for a hearing on his motion to reduce his bail, which was set at $350,000.
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