Gainesville, Florida — The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has launched an internal investigation after deputies in a Lenco BearCat Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), or Light Armored Vehicle (LAV), conducted a traffic stop.
The deputies that occupied the APC were dressed in tactical clothing.
The man they pulled over, Lucas A. Jewel, 23, was stopped after he gave the deputies the middle finger. As the traffic stop was initiated, he immediately began recording with his cell phone.
In a 5-page “information report” released to Ocala Post by the ACSO, the deputies stated that Jewell violated Florida Statute 316.157, which addresses the use of hand signals. However, the statute does not cover giving someone the middle finger. In fact, in 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit wrote a 14-page opinion that ruled that the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”
Florida Statute 316.157 reads:
Method of giving hand and arm signals.—
(1) All signals herein required to be given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner and such signals shall indicate as follows:
(a) Left turn.—Hand and arm extended horizontally.
(b) Right turn.—Hand and arm extended upward, except that a bicyclist may extend the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.
(c) Stop or decrease speed.—Hand and arm extended downward.
(2) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
The deputies said they had left the University of Florida Orange and Blue football game in the BearCat and were traveling east on 1400 West University Avenue when they saw a gold four-door Ford being driven by a man with blondish brown dreads pulled up on top of his head.
Deputy Charles Drake wrote that Jewel then extended his middle finger.
Deputy Drake wrote, “At this time I observed a head of black hair sit up from his lap and observed a white female wearing a white shirt with glasses and dark black hair. The female smiled.”
Deputy Kevin Davis wrote, “As we approached the area of West 13th Street, I heard Deputy Howell yell loudly out the back door of the APC, ‘Pay attention to where you are going!'” He added, “I turned to Deputy Howell and asked, What’s going on?” Davis wrote, “Howell pointed at a gold car that was traveling east, approximately 15-yards behind us, and advised me that the driver of the vehicle appeared to be receiving oral sex and just shot us the bird.”
As the APC came to a stop, Jewel’s vehicle drove past the APC. Deputies said they looked at each other, at which time Deputy Howell said, “You gotta’ be kidding me! Was she really giving him h**d?”
Deputies said they traveled several blocks before they initiated a traffic stop on Jewel.
Deputies reported that once they had stopped the vehicle, they removed their Colt Commando’s prior to exiting the APC.
Deputy Howell reported that during the traffic stop he ordered Jewel to stand between the lights of the APC. When he didn’t, Deputy Howell grabbed Jewel by the wrist and “escorted” him to the correct position. Deputy Howell then threatened to arrest Jewel and charge him with “resisting arrest.” However, Jewel was not under arrest at the time.
The charge of resisting arrest is supposed to be reserved for when a suspect truly resists while actually being arrested.
Deputy Howell also wrote, “Once I identified Jewel, I informed him that I was aware that there was no law against someone ‘shooting the bird’ at a law enforcement officer.” However, that is not exactly what Deputy Howell stated in the video.
Deputy Howell then told Jewel he had been pulled over for improper hand signal and for his girlfriend allegedly performing oral sex on him.
Jewel told the deputy that his girlfriend was just sleeping in his lap.
In the report, Deputy Davis wrote, “Jewel exited his vehicle from the driver’s seat and I immediately noticed that he was attempting to record the traffic stop via his cell phone. At that point, it appeared that Jewel’s potentially dangerous actions while operating his motor vehicle on a public road way were an effort to intentionally get pulled over by law enforcement and create a scene.”
State Attorney Bill Cervone said he has never heard of an investigation initiated because of someone who gave the middle finger.
Cervone also said that this case seems to involve some constitutional free speech issues.
ACSO Public Information Officer Art Forgey said the situation is under investigation, and that the investigation would include the conduct of the deputies, whether or not they violated any department policies, and the video itself. Forgey said that they couldn’t comment beyond that.
In an interview with Ocala Post, Jewel was very candid about his encounter with the ACSO.
Jewel said, “I find it funny that Deputy Davis accused me of trying to intentionally get pulled over in his report. I don’t think anyone would try to intentionally get themselves pulled over by a cop.”
Jewel said, “In the video, when I was told to stand between the headlights, you can see the camera ‘suddenly jerk.’ That’s was because Deputy Howell punched me then grabbed my arm.”Adding, “He threatened to arrest me for resisting arrest, but I was not being arrested and I was not resisting.”
Jewel said, “Deputy Howell left the fact that he punched me out of his report.”
Jewel said that when he “flipped the bird” it was directed at the fact the deputies were driving a military vehicle in the city.
“The Bear Cat is a military vehicle and was never intended to be in the hands of police that want to become militarized. It is much better suited for places like Iraq,” Jewel said. “I am not just against it in Gainesville, I am against it worldwide.”
He said as a Navy veteran he was absolutely insulted over the entire situation. Especially when police are supposed to uphold the U.S. constitution, not destroy it.
“I was also insulted when a deputy accused me of lying about being in the Navy, “Jewel said. “I wasn’t just insulted, I was becoming very angry at that point.” He went on to say,” In the video you can see that I said, ‘We can go back…but then I stopped.” He added, “I was about to say then we could go back to my apartment and I will show you my paperwork. But, then I realized I didn’t want those thug-cops in my home.”
Jewel said he is hopeful about the investigation. He said that when he spoke to Sheriff Sadie Darnell she seemed genuinely concerned about the situation as a whole.
“I am hoping there will be some policy changes that come out of this, ” Jewel said. “It is not okay to violate a person’s Constitutional Rights.”
He said he has been in contact with several attorneys, but has not made a decision on how he wants to proceed.