October 1, 2023

Thankfully this incident did not end in tragedy but it isn’t because the Deputy was compassionate, empathetic or even reasonable. First reported by News4Jax, Ebony Washington a pregnant mother was driving with her 3 children when the Bradford County officer (Deputy Jason Desue) pulled out his gun and threatened to “Put Her Into the Ground” after the mother searched for a well lit area to pull over. As you can see in the video, Ms. Washington has her emergency blinkers on acknowledging she sees the officer and she clearly pulls over at a gas station when she reaches a well lit area.

Officers are both aware of this practice and purport to encourage it when drivers feel unsafe driving on dark roads and stopping. Even if Ms. Washington was alone while driving, her actions were reasonable at the time she looked for an actual location to stop but she was actually with children which made her behavior even more cautious. The officer however not only pointed a weapon at someone who had not posed a threat but also openly threatened to kill them and upon witnessing that he was in fact dealing with a pregnant woman and children still treated her as both a danger and a criminal.

Even when all was said and done and Ms. Washington apologized even though she shouldn’t have felt compelled to do so- Officer Desue showed a dismissive attitude and lack of compassion that made clear he had no concern for her humanity, her being a protective mother, or her fears under the circumstances. “Shut up about Why,” he yelled at her. It didn’t even register to him that he was on the verge of shooting a pregnant woman and her children.

Since the Bodycam footage was released, Deputy Desue has resigned from Bradford County Police Department.

That Ms. Washington felt the need to underscore her credentials, status in an attempt to convey to the officer humanity simply reinforces the level of fear we endure during police encounters. While it should never be necessary to qualify ourselves in order to survive when being held at gunpoint, Ms. Washington felt it necessary to attempt to plead with the officer’s sensibilities or lack thereof to try to make clear that she was not a threat and certainly not someone violent. The truth is, nobody degree or no degree, from any walk of life deserves to be treated this way.

This is the terrifying nature of police encounters with Black people and honestly it’s tough to reconcile the notion that sometimes we literally have to be “thankful” that all the encounter resulted in was mental trauma for both ourselves and our children and not actual physical harm or worse- Death. Seeing her apologize to the officer for the violence he inflicted upon her and her family was heartbreaking. Sometimes even when we are able to walk away from the scene it doesn’t mean that we walk away as intact as we were prior to the incident and the trauma levied upon us. The Washington family is in our thoughts.

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