A 42-year-old driver who appeared drunk allegedly–and very briefly–pointed a loaded gun at a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop on Palm Coast Parkway late Thursday night before complying with orders to drop the gun. It was the latest de-escalation of what could have resulted in an officer-involved shooting.
The officer was Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy Jacob West, an eight-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who has been at the receiving end of an unusual amount of dangerous situations, none resulting in serious injuries to himself or others.
Jason Keel, 42, a resident of 34 Fellowship Drive in Palm Coast, was arrested on two felony and two misdemeanor charges.
West was patrolling the area of Palm Coast Parkway and Old Kings Road North in an unmarked agency vehicle when he saw a white Ford Fusion traveling east on the parkway and stopping at a red light on the crosswalk, rather than before the crosswalk. West activated the unmarked vehicle’s lights and began a traffic stop.
The vehicle pulled into the parking lot at Bank of America. Keel was at the wheel, and alone in the Fusion. He was leaning out the window as West approached, though West could only see one of Keel’s hands.
Keel said something to the effect of “I have a gun,” according to his arrest report and body camera video of the incident. He did not appear belligerent as much as he seemed clueless.
West immediately ordered him to place both hands on the steering wheel for safety. Keel briefly complied, only to then allegedly begin “reaching into the front passenger seat, deliberately and intentionally disobeying Cpl. J. West’s lawful orders to place both hands on the steering wheel,” the report states. West’s patrol car was unmarked, but West himself was in a sheriff’s uniform.
“Drop the gun! What are you doing?” West told him. Keel was reaching under a t-shirt laying on the front passenger seat, then produced a black handgun that was not encased or secured. Keel, according to the report, “manipulated the weapon in his hand as if he were going to fire the weapon, making the trigger easily accessible to him. Keel continued to move the firearm, presenting the barrel of the firearm at Cpl. J. West in a manner that appeared he was ready to fire the weapon.”
West retreated and drew his gun, issuing commands to Keel to drop his weapon. West, the report states, “was in fear that [Keel] intended to shoot based on [Keel] willingly refusing lawful orders and pointing a firearm, barrel first at a law enforcement officer.” But Keel complied, putting the gun back on the front passenger seat.
In the video, Keel briefly handles the gun, puts the gun back down and says “sorry, sorry,” before raising his arms and stepping out of the car to obey the deputy’s commands. He then kept apologizing and saying “I just wanted to hand it to you.”
West held Keel at gunpoint until another deputy arrived, when Keel was handcuffed. As he did so, he stumbled out the vehicle and had a hard time staying on his feet. His speech was slurred. His eyes were bloodshot. He could not follow commands: all the signs of drunkenness. The weapon he’d brandished was a Glock 43. West took it and removed the magazine. A round was ejected from the chamber, indicating the firearm had been loaded with a live round.
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper arrived at the scene. Keel refused to submit to field sobriety exercises even after being cautioned that that would leave law enforcement to make its determination of impairment based on observations then and there. Keel still refused, was read his rights and asked for an attorney, shutting down any questioning.
Keel was arrested on charges of drunk driving, carrying a concealed firearm, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and committing a weapons offense while drunk. The aggravated assault charge is a second degree felony. The concealed firearm charge is a third degree felony. The others are misdemeanors. He was also issued a drunk driving citation. He remains at the county jail on $25,000 bond.
Keel’s Fusion was towed by John’s Towing.
It’s only the latest but likely the most directly threatening incident involving West in the last several years. In March this year, West was slightly injured when a driver who’d been racing up U.S. 1 crashed into West’s patrol car enough to deploy airbags. The man pleaded to three charges, adjudication was withheld on a felony charge, and he’s currently serving a year of probation.
In December 2017, West was at the receiving end of threats on his life and kicks against his person by an individual involved in a domestic assault incident. The man pleaded to a reduced misdemeanor charge and served a year on probation. (The man was charged again with a felony battery on a person over 65, but the charge was dropped.) Earlier that year West was almost struck by the car of a fleeing suspect.
In June 2019, West was involved in an attempted suicide-by-cop situation, himself carrying out de-escalation techniques as he and other deputies confronted a woman with a knife.
The Sheriff’s Office continues a decade-long streak of avoiding officer-involved shootings resulting in fatalities. The agency has had one incident where deputies have fired and struck a person, who had a gun in a parked car. The man survived. (See: “From Shooters to Saviors: How Flagler Deputies Shot an Armed Man, Then Saved Him From Suicide.“)
Two years ago, in one of various training exercises emphasizing de-escalation, all the agencies’ deputies went through simulations testing their split-second judgments in dangerous encounters, with some scenarios replicating almost exactly the situation West faced Thursday night on Palm Coast Parkway.
For Real says
What is wrong with people? There seems to be more guns in the hands of very wrong people. Take his guns away he isn’t responsible enough to own them. If it is even a legal ownership?
I Need A Drink! says
At what point in America are we going to actually attempt to put a stop to drunk driving? These are conscientious decisions made by individuals to put everyone’s lives in danger, equivalent of first degree anything, and we consistently and constantly let these people off with little to no actual punishment. Minimum mandatories are needed. No more pleas. No more probation and AA nonsense. LOCK THESE SONSOFBITCHES UP! You drive drunk – Five year minimum mandatory. That’s it man. Your ass is grass, enjoy your stay. White, black, green, cop, politician, judge, man, woman, binary whatev, rich, poor. You fail the breathalizer, you refuse it, you’re caught driving, off to jail (hell, bypass jail and take them straight to Raiford!). No bond. Car is gone too. Straight to auction.
Stop with the madness! 30% of all traffic fatalities in America are due to impaired and drunk driving! Stop it already. Lock these bastards up!
And this clown. Rolling around with a loaded glock in the passenger seat, unsecured, and F*****G DRUNK! I don’t care if you’re sorry. I don’t care if you have kids. I don’t care if you’ll lose your job. I don’t care if you’re depressed. I DON’T GIVE A S**T! This is the most dangerous thing in the known universe. A drunk ass human behind the wheel of a car with a loaded weapon. We’ll go around and send out hunting parties for a wild bear that gets in our garbage or a gator that attacks someone and kill’em in an instant. But this animal here, in all of his sorrow, is likely walking among us right now, right this minute. Worse yet, he’ll likely not do another hour in jail. Pathetic. Simply, unequivocally, pathethic. I’m not saying kill’em. I’m saying lock this loser up for a very, very long time. Grown ass man in his forties. Start throwing some real, actual penalties behind this DUI nonsense and you’ll see tens of thousands of other people that are killed annually get to live another day. We have a steady stream of mass destruction going on daily and we do next to nothing. Time to do something. LOCK THESE SONSOFBITCHES UP!
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
You summed it up and take the guns away from these unstable lunatics they should never be allowed near them EVVER!
I dunno, yeah it was a gun, but he hardly pointed it at anyone. From the video and pause of a still image, it was more like he was handling it from the seat like it was a used kleenex that he had just blown his runny nose with. Sometimes the descriptions of what sounds heinous are merely nothing more than a bad decision in n attempt to be too cooperative.
Sorry Jimbo99,….. a drunk with a loaded weapon for a law enforcement officer IS
a big deal
No one,….. including this local P.C. hillbilly is shooting a snoot rocket with a Glock
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Jimboo99, After reading your comment I was asking , are you drinking????? Sometimes you make some kind of sense on here but there are other times I wonder, get well soon!
Rewatch the video, at about 15 -18 seconds onto it. When have you ever seen anyone shoot a handgun, holding it in between his thumb & pointer finger like that. He does not have it in his hand as pointing the barrel at the officer. The photo I see from body cam is the butt end of the pistol grip and that is what points at the officer, not the exit end of the barrel.
I agree that it’s not the smartest thing to do to even handle the gun. Then again, allegedly intoxicated to whatever degree, so a DUI isn’t a smart idea. Then to even have the gun in the car under any influence is yet another stupid move.
That’s the thing with a pistol, you actually have to grip & clench it in the palm of your hand, put your trigger finger inside the trigger guard, And being a single projectile, the exit end of the barrel has to be pointed at a target. That to me constitutes pointing a pistol at anyone. None of those are present in the video. When all those elements are absent, saying someone pointed the gun at the officer is flawed. I would say that he was handing the pistol to the officer. And from the audio, I thought he was even trying to explain that ?
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Jimbo99: The fact is that he was holding a GUN in his DRUNKEN stupor along with the fact that he is drunk driving. Things can quicky change with a combination of those two facts. The time it takes to hand the pistol to the officer and to change ones mind only takes seconds therefore your theory is flawed.
I totally agree with Jimbo99 – The sheriff just elaborated a little too much. It was obvious he was confused.
I’m “shocked” he’s still alive. Sounds about white.
Bill C. says
Thank you, my sentiments exactly.
Wow, it took a few more comments than I thought to play the race card
Gina Weiss says
Oldtimer:Wow I think you are about four centuries behind.
I forgot, race trumps all, my bad
I’m so thankful that the Deputy got to go home safe and sound! Thank you sir for your professionalism and coolness under a very stressful situation.
If the cop had of had to shoot him, this message board would be a whole different flavor.
Tell me I’m wrong.