Note: foul language below.
On August 16, Alphonso Brooks was pulled over as he drove through Bunnell for a traffic violation. Then a K-9 unit was brought in and allegedly alerted deputies to the presence of drugs in Brooks’s car. There would turn out to be no drugs. But Brooks was asked to exit the car so it could be searched. As he did so he appeared to reach for a gun. A deputy immediately rushed him and immobilized him against the car as other cops drew their weapons in a brief but extremely tense moment.
As they had on numerous previous occasions in the past five and a half years, sheriff’s deputies held their fire and defused the situation. What could have been a police-involved shooting turned into a basic arrest. A .32-caliber American Arms gun and five rounds of ammunition, kept separately, were recovered at the scene.
Brooks was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, aggravated assault on a police officer, carrying a concealed firearm and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. He was jailed on $50,000 bond, posted bail the next day and went home to Palatka. He’s to be arraigned on Aug. 24, but the aggravated assault change and carrying a concealed weapon charge were dropped.
Early the morning of Sept. 3, Flagler deputies had yet another close call with an armed man who, in this case, came out of his house unmistakably pointing a gun at the deputies. Somehow, the deputies did not shoot, and again the situation was defused without harm to anyone.
But despite pointing a gun at deputies, Bruce Bruce (he has the same first and last name), the 33-year-old man in the incident, was not arrested or charged with any crime.
“There are significant differences between those two cases,” Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge said after reviewing the written documentation. “The one thing that carries through both cases, the deputies did a heroic job in both cases, showing great restraint, no lives were lost. Where they are dissimilar is you have a person in public who is a convicted felon with a gun.” That would be Brooks. “The other person is on their own property, startled, and was compliant throughout the entire process. It is really an apples to oranges comparison.”
Watch the Incident: Bruce Bruce v. Deputies
The deputies involved in the second case concluded that Bruce came to the door with his gun raised but without knowing who was at his door–though the deputies had identified themselves–and had been groggy.
“You have to be able to evaluate the merits of the actions taken by the potential subject, and if it doesn’t rise to the level of criminal action, then they certainly acted appropriately,” Strobridge said of the deputies not charging the second man. “But this is truly another situation where the deputies did an excellent job de-escalation the situation, not causing harm to anybody involved, because the legislature has made it quite clear, it’s OK for you to defend yourself.”
Bruce, however, was not defending himself: the deputies had shown no aggression-neither in their voice nor in the way they’d knocked on his door. They did not have their guns drawn. There had been no indication of anything amiss, other than a knock at the door at 4 a.m.
And Bruce, too, had faced criminal charges on two previous occasions, including resisting an officer, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and drug trafficking, the sort of history deputies usually pay attention to out of caution, though all the charges were dropped. Deputies were also made aware that Bruce had been the subject of a weapons complaint earlier this year.
The outcome may have been the result of the Sheriff’s Office not wanting to contend with a Stand Your Ground case, though individuals who brandish firearms, even on their property, are usually charged. Strobridge briefly alluded to the law, but said he would not speculate about it, or its application in this case, since he is not a lawyer.
The Bruce incident started at 2:44 a.m. the morning of Sept. 3 when the 911 dispatch center got a call from a woman at European Village in Palm Coast who said her boyfriend had called her and told her he was going to drive off a bridge. She was referring to Bruce, who lives on a property off State Road 11. The 911 caller was not cooperative, refusing to provide much information as she asked law enforcement to check local bridges. A deputy reached his mother, who would not provide his address, but authorities were able to ping and geo-locate Bruce at his State Road 11 home–the same home that had been the subject of a weapons complaint from a neighbor in February, who’d heard gunshots there.
Deputies concluded that they should check on Bruce and possibly Baker Act him, invoking the law that gives deputies authority to seize a person for psychiatric evaluation at a health care facility in Daytona Beach if the person shows signs of self-harm, or intent to harm others.
Deputies Aaron Beausoleil and Jason Prather were first at Bruce’s property. “Upon my arrival, Deputy Beausoleil and I walked down the driveway to the residence. I walked up the front porch to the front door and knocked on the door,” Prather reported in a Sept. 5 incident report. “After hearing no response I knocked again. I then knocked a third time and heard someone moving about inside. I heard a loud, unintelligible voice and I announced ‘Sheriff’s Office.’ I heard the voice continue talking so I announced ‘Sheriff’s Office’ again. The door then opened and Bruce Bruce rapidly exited the residence with a handgun.” The scene is picked up by a deputy’s body cam, with the deputies heard clearly identifying themselves at least twice as they knocked on Bruce’s door.
Bruce’s arm was immediately raised, his gun at one instant pointed directly at deputies after he opened the door, uttering an expletive. Beausolei described him as opening the door “in an aggressive manner,” as he “began waving a small black handgun in the air.”
Deputies screamed for him to disarm. “Drop the gun, drop the gun,” and “show me your hands.”
“I was positioned approximately 20′ away from the front door, and drew my agency issued Glock 22c,” Beausoleil wrote in a Sept. 6 report, “and gave loud verbal commands for Bruce to drop the firearm and to get onto the ground.”
Bruce complied within moments, coming back out, unarmed, his hands in the air, but himself yelling: “This is private property, What the fuck?” His dog had walked out the door, and as he crouched he briefly reached for him then sprawled on the ground as a deputy screams at him, “what the hell is wrong with you?”
“I was sleeping, what the fuck,” was Bruce’s answer.
“Put your hands behind your back. Put your hands behind your back. You almost just got shot, d’you realize that?” a deputy yells at him.
“I don’t give a fuck,” he tells them, “what the fucks are you guys doing here?” He couldnl’t understand how the deputies had gotten through a locked gate.
Bruce then placed the firearm inside of the residence by the front door, and then complied and was then secured on the front porch.” He was handcuffed for a short time as deputies explained the situation to him. He said “he only came out with a gun because he was not sure who was outside of his residence,” a deputy reported. “After further conversation with Bruce, it was determined he did not meet baker act criteria.”
Deputy Duenas Confronts Alphonso Brooks, Aug. 15, 2018
He was released.
“Those deputies used great restraint, and what could have been a very tragic situation, was not,” Strobridge said. “I’m sleeping between 2 and 4 a.m. and I’m not expecting anybody to show up at my house between 2 and 4 a.m. I think there’s a significant difference in the amount of awareness in the individual’s head.” In the Alfonso Brooks case, Strobridge continued, he was “fully awake, fully aware, driving down the road. The presumption is they have 100 percent of their faculties as they’re driving down the road, because you’re not supposed to be intoxicated while you’re driving, that’s an assumption, and you’re not supposed to be sleeping.”
Strobridge said nobody should maliciously point a gun at anybody else, “ever, it doesn’t matter who they are,” and while deputies train for the kind of restraint they showed in both incidents, “a person’s actions have consequences every time. In this particular case it appears he was compliant, he did everything he was told to do during this entire process. A hothead would not have been there, would not have been compliant, would have continued to be an additional threat and quite possibly in that situation lost their life, because there are consequences to everything that we do, and sometimes they’re very sad, you as you know.”
If an armed individual is less compliant, Strobridge said: “I promise you this, that if somebody comes out of their house and they start shooting, they are going to lose every time.” That’s not been happening. Strobridge said Sheriff Rick Staly “is very proud in both those cases that everybody was able to put their heads on a pillow and go to sleep, and all of our deputies were able to go home, as they should. It’s awesome that a life was not taken.”