A Black woman’s family and community activists in Jacksonville, Florida, are demanding state officials drop charges against the 28-year-old, who’s accused of shooting law enforcement agents as they were serving a search warrant.
Diamonds Jonquil Ford allegedly shot at and injured a detective from the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team as they attempted to serve a search warrant with agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at her home on Sept. 28.
The warrant was obtained by federal agents after a multi-state drug investigation focused on a home on Rutledge Pearson Drive and uncovered “evidence of numerous drug-activity taking place in and around” it over a span of months, according to the Florida Times-Union. The publication reports that Detective R.M. Nauss is recovering at home after he was shot multiple times during the encounter.
Ford’s lawyer, Stephen Kelly, said that his client had no idea it was the police barging into her apartment unannounced in a case drawing comparisons to the killing of Breonna Taylor.
“She absolutely did not know police were breaking her window, busting in the door at the same time,” he said. “It appeared to be a home invasion. If the police would have properly announced themselves, we wouldn’t be here today.”
In court, the mother, who has a 12-year-old daughter, pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer by means of a firearm and possession with intent to sell cannabis while armed, according to the Times-Union.
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Ford’s fiancee, Anthony Christopher Gantt, was also arrested with her following the shooting and remains behind bars. He pleaded not guilty to his charges as well but is being held on $350,000 bail. Initially, both Gantt and Ford were charged with armed possession of marijuana, but charges were later upgraded to include counts of attempted murder, the Times-Union reported.
This week, community activists, Ford’s family and other supporters convened outside the courthouse that supervised the case and held protests arguing that Ford was being oppressed by an unfair justice system.
“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,” Danielle Chanzes, an organizer with grassroots group Dignity Power, said.
The demonstrators, who were organized as a delegation, argued outside of the courthouse that Ford was innocent due to no-knock warrants being illegal in Florida, and they urged that all charges should be dropped against her.
Premium News > A Black woman in #Florida is fighting to clear her name after she shot a police officer she suspected to be an intruder.
— Premium News (@Premiumtvnet) November 19, 2020
Although police officials have expressed that they do not use “no-knock” warrants, Kelly told the crowd that in Ford’s case, the law enforcement agency is using the term”high-risk warrant” to discriminate against her.
“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,” Kelly said of the nearly 30 officers who were stationed outside the woman’s home during the incident.
Jacksonville Police have denied any allegations of using the illegal practice, and Assistant Chief Chris M. Brown told the Times-Union that it would take the state attorney’s office to dismiss charges against Ford.
“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.
State police have a legal duty to announce themselves before entering an estate, but the law does permit exceptions depending on the circumstances, the Times-Union reported.
After Taylor was killed last spring in a similar raid, protesters nationwide took to the streets to protest the inhumane practice. Last summer, the Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously to ban the practice of no-knock warrants in a bill known as Breonna’s Law, NPR reported.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the bill “is one of many critical steps on police reform” to create a more equitable city.