(NEW YORK) — A Florida family is speaking out after a sheriff’s deputy resigned after body camera showed him handcuffing a pregnant mother at gunpoint during a traffic stop while her children watched in fear.
The incident took place on Aug. 12 on a dark, rural road in Bradford County, Florida, northeast of Gainesville.
Ebony Washington told ABC News in an exclusive interview airing Monday that the situation got so tense that she asked her children to record the incident, adding that a speeding ticket “shouldn’t warrant such extreme, drastic measures.”
“She was treated as though she said she was a terrorist,” Washington’s husband, Pastor Washington, told ABC News.
“When they put the gun on her, I thought they were going to shoot her,” Washington’s daughter, Moriah Washington, 10, told ABC News. “Then, when they put the handcuffs on her, I thought they were going to take her to jail, and I got super sad and scared because I didn’t know where me and my brother and my sister were going to go.”
Body camera video released by the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office shows sheriff’s deputy Jacob Desue pulling over Washington as she drove along a dark, rural road. Washington said that she turned her hazard lights on, indicating she was planning on stopping, and drove about a mile to a well lit gas station where she felt safe to pull over.
As she pulled over, Desue screamed at Washington to get out of the vehicle while her children, including her 1-year-old, could be heard crying in the car.
“When all of this was happening, I was really scared for my mom, and I didn’t know what they were going to do to her,” Washington’s daughter, Saige Washington, 17, told ABC News. “So, I called my dad because I wanted him to know that we were there just in case something did happen he could be there for us.”
Video shows Washington stepping out of her car with her hands up in the air.
“You make any movement, that will be your last mistake you’re gonna make,” the officer shouts.
Washington repeatedly apologizes in the video and explains to the officer that she drove a mile before pulling over because she wanted to stop in a well lit area, but he interrupts her.
“I don’t care about the why, just shut up about the why,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” Washington responded.
Washington said that she let the officer know that she’s four months pregnant because the situation was so tense and she worried he would push her to the ground.
“I didn’t give him a reason for him to harm me in front of my children. And so my calmness really just came in because I was afraid for my life,” she said.
Washington was not taken into custody after the incident and was given a speeding ticket, her attorney John Phillips, told ABC News.
Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith told ABC News he was “hurt and disappointed” that this happened to Washington and after viewing cellphone video of the incident online, police pulled the body camera video and saw that Washington did everything right.
“She explained to him that, you know, she’s flashing lights to get to a lit area. OK, well, that’s what I want my wife to do,” Smith said. “It’s what I want my daughter to do, it’s what I would want my neighbor to do if you feel unsafe.”
Smith said that the police department accepted Desue’s resignation.
“We don’t deal with Black and white, we deal with right and wrong,” he said.
ABC News has reached out to Desue for comment.
Phillips said that he will pursue any legal avenue to make sure that situation doesn’t happen again.
“This isn’t right. This isn’t how law enforcement is supposed to react on a speeding ticket, but we see it more and more and usually it involves a stereotype, usually it involves, you know, racial injustice.”
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