The surveillance video in the hallway to the confinement cells shows Flagler County Sheriff’s detention deputy Jared Tazewell walking to Marc Duncanson’s cell, unlocking and opening the door at 1:48 the afternoon of April 23. Duncanson’s mother was visiting. She was waiting for a video call in the video communication area the public uses on Justice Lane, near the jail.
Tazewell stands at the door for a while, appearing to converse with Duncanson, who remains out of view. Tazewell gestures a few times, shows a bit of frustration, shifts from foot to foot but waits, his arms relaxed. He points a couple of times inside the cell, then stands by, holding the cell door with his left hand.
At 1:50:36, Duncanson walks out and “tosses” his walker at Tazewell, as a detective investigating the case described it in his report. Tazewell immediately rears back with his right fist and punches Duncanson on what appears to be the right side of Duncanson’s head, sending him falling back, though Tazewell’s momentum is such that the deputy appears to have struck his forearm against the the door frame. He briefly stands back, shows no hurry, shoves the walker aside, then walks in, appearing to look to the ground.
The sheriff’s office announced Tazewell’s resignation following an internal investigation into his “excessive use of force” late Tuesday afternoon. It did so in a vague press release that couched the incident in the larger headline about “changes” coming to the jail with the retirement of its director. The release described the incident only in general terms and did not mention the inmate’s name, his age (he is 54), the fact that he was disabled from recent hip surgery, or the fact that he was mentally ill and had been judged incompetent to stand trial before the incident, and was awaiting a bed in a psychiatric hospital. The agency did not explain why it was not releasing documentation of the incident.
Early Wednesday afternoon, it did so, providing additional details into the incident, but also raising further questions about the agency’s portrayal of the incident, and its continuing dissimulation of at least one key piece of releasable evidence: the surveillance footage inside Duncanson’s jail cell, after Tazewell is seen punching him at the door.
The Surveillance Footage
There was also surveillance video footage from within the cell. The sheriff’s office did not release that footage: “The video from within the cell is not releasable as it contains information that reveals security measures within the jail,” a sheriff’s spokesperson said (implying, in effect, that any footage of an inmate’s interactions with jail personnel may be hidden from public examination under a blanket claim of “security measures”).
So it is not known how Tazewell handled Duncanson (or how Duncanson responded) other than through how Tazewell reported it, though his veracity and consistency in recounting the incident was questioned by the detective investigating the incident.
The press release issued on Tuesday afternoon stated that “A criminal investigation was immediately conducted. The State Attorney’s Office declined to file charges.” As written, the release implies that the sheriff’s office was willing to file criminal charges but was stopped by the state attorney’s office. In fact, a sheriff’s detective had concluded that charges against Tazewell were not warranted, but that charges against Duncanson were. The State Attorney’s Office’s Jason Lewis only ratified that decision. Lewis also determined that based on Duncanson’s “competency and the fact that Inmate Duncanson had already been sent off to the state hospital for competency training, a criminal prosecution was not warranted,” a memo by the detective investigating the case stated to Chief Mark Strobridge. Lewis determined that charges against the inmate were not warranted, either.
Duncanson, however, is reported in the sheriff’s documentation to refuse to cooperate with the investigation in most regards, and to have been uninterested in charges against Tazewell–assuming he was competent to make such judgments: Circuit Judge Terence Perkins had declared him incompetent to stand trial (based on an individual’s ability to make reasoned judgments, follow directions, understand circumstances surrounding him, and so on) just weeks earlier. He had initially been jailed on a misdemeanor trespassing charge. A felony charge was added when he tampered with a fire-extinguishing sprinkler. An additional felony charge was recommended after he threw the walker at Tazewell–aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. The charge has not been filed.
Only today, Strobridge wrote Staly that after reviewing the Tazewell case, he was recommending that Tazewell be fired for excessive use of force. The sheriff concurred. Strobridge had been on vacation until today, and his signature could not be secured on key documents until then: he prepared them for release today, which may explain why they had not been released earlier.
Both the initial criminal investigation conducted by a sheriff’s detective and the internal affairs investigation point to discomfort with Tazewell’s behavior among other deputies, including supervisors, immediately after the incident.
“Me personally, I didn’t like the way it looked,” Sgt. Manuel Sa, a veteran of the agency, told the internal investigator. Sa consulted with Cmdr. Brian Pasquariello, who did not like what he saw, either. Sa explained to an investigator that he did not like “the closed fist strike” and the fact that Tazewell aimed for the inmate’s jaw. He then “observed Dep. Tazewell attempt to secure him until assistance could arrive,” but there’s no explanation of how Tazewell was attempting to secure him. “He could have had another means of deescalating the situation by possibly just pushing inmate Duncanson into the cell and shutting the cell on him,” Sa told the investigator.
Deputy Joshua Crouch told an internal investigator that Tazewell’s punch surprised him, but he couldn’t say how he’d have reacted if he’d faced the same situation. He considered Tazewell’s act “more reactionary” than malicious.
After the incident, Tazewell in his written report claimed that Duncanson had a pen in his hand and that Tazewell was defending himself against possibly getting stabbed. The available video footage shows Tazewell in no way appearing threatened by anything other than the walker, or showing any urgency to restrain Duncanson immediately after the strike. At least two deputies, including a corporal, who responded to the incident in its immediate aftermath told investigators that Tazewell never mentioned to them that he’d been worried about a pen in Duncanson’s hand. The criminal investigation does state that he had a pen in his possession.
It also states that, according to Tazewell, Duncanson, during that interval of time when Tazewell was standing at the door, told him about some strange dream and that “I want to go to my new world and I’ll take whoever I can with me, I’ll take you with me.” The statement could not be verified, since video does not record sound, though Duncanson’s odd behavior has been documented.
When other detention deputies arrived, according to the criminal investigation, Tazewell was “lying on top of” the inmate, “attempting to control him.” Cpl. Nicholas had drawn her Taser. She immediately afterward told Tazewell to go “cool down” because she said his emotions were “high.” He told Nicholas that he had slipped inside the cell and rolled his wrist, which later needed medical attention.
Tazewell himself seemed “to go back and forth” on the issue of the pen when an investigator asked him about it, first saying that he did not feel threatened by it, then changing his mind after the investigator read him what Tazewell had initially written.
Detective Rich Petkovsek, who conducted the criminal investigation, concluded: “After reviewing the surveillance footage and conducting the interviews with Sergeant Sa, Corporal Nicholas, and Deputy Tazewell; I do not believe there is sufficient probable cause to charge Deputy Tazewell with the crime of battery. Deputy Tazewell’s response was an immediate single reaction to a felony battery being committed against himself. After Deputy Tazewell struck inmate Duncanson, he immediately went to a de-escalation attempt in restraining inmate Duncanson on the ground until additional Deputies could arrive. Once relieved, Deputy Tazewell removed himself from the situation so he could emotionally calm down. At this time, inmate Duncanson will be charged with felony battery in reference to striking Deputy Tazewell with his walker.”
The internal affairs investigation was started in mid-August. Tazewell was interviewed on Sept. 19 in the presence of his union attorney, Greg Forhan. Tazewell said the incident happened very fast, that Duncanson started getting up after being punched and continued to resist. He acknowledged that the walker thrown at him weighs “hardly anything,” but Duncanson’s act surprised him and “triggered the reaction.”
“He just had hip surgery, correct?” the investigator asked him. “How did his actions and capabilities get to the point where you struck him in the face?”
“The walker, I thought I saw the pen, all of that came into play instantly and I didn’t know what he was going to do,” Tazewell replied. “I needed to get him away from me though. My body just reacted.” He said that based on what he thought at the time, he’d reacted appropriately. But based on his discussion with the investigator, he said: “I would say no, if I had to do [it] over again and time to think that would not have happened.”
He could have faced a suspension of more than 168 hours, a demotion or termination had he not resigned.
Just part of the staley circus act !!!!
facts of life says
It’s interesting how fast a black law enforcement officer gets thrown the wolves as compared to white officers when use of force takes place.
Mr. know it all says
It’s not surprisingly the fact to me for the simple fact is Flagler county has a high percentage of racism at that in particular jail PERIODT!! I know first hand and seen it for myself
facts of life says
OK, just watched the video. I stand by my first commitment. Black men have gotten killed inside and outside of prison by white law enforcement for far less. He didn’t just throw the walker at him, he tried to hit him in the face with it. Such a double standard!
The Realist says
If this deputy was white and the mentally impaired inmate black, this video would be making national news with protests demanding justice. Why aren’t the people that stand up for mentally impaired citizens protesting?? This deputy in no way had cause to punch him in that manner. This former deputy should be charged with battery. The county should do a better job of screening these guards. Maybe more thorough psychological evaluations to weed out people that in their own words react in a “triggered a reaction” manner. I am also wondering if this guy will be able to be hired in other counties since he didn’t have any charges placed on him. The Sheriff allowed him to resign which keeps his ability to fill out an application saying he wasn’t fired. So if an employer buys in to whatever excuse he gives as a reason for leaving, this assailant will be back in business. Hopefully, wherever he applies does their homework and recognizes the risk/reward of employing this disgrace in a uniform.
I am also wondering if the VICTIM’s mother is his legal guardian since he is mentally impaired. Perhaps being that she is his legal guardian, could she file charges against this guy? Something must be done to keep this guy out of a law enforcement uniform.
what happened to progressive discipline??? this man had an object thrown at him, and he reacted within the scope of the threat. he was threatened with termination before suspension or any other discipline. This is just another case of the Sheriff’s Office doing whatever they want to whomever they want. seems like upper management feels that they are above the law. Sheriff Staley and his minions only look out for themselves. Good job ruining another good deputies life!
Facts of life says
Black people being mistreated treated by law enforcement happeneds so much its bound to make the news and still nothing is done about it. Save the Trump analogy for someone else. Black people don’t and never have run the justice system especially one that has origins steeped in slave patrols. You can look through case after case of white officers, unions and departments creative excuses when it comes to use of force against black eight to eighty blind cripple and crazy people.
He punches like a butterfly.
I hereby assign him the nickname “Papillon.”
Good to see his sorry ass resign.
Maybe he can girly-punch someone who can clean his
clock next time!
He will pop up in an other police/corrections gig elsewhere
just like a metal slug at a coin-operated laundromat.
“PAPILLON”–Say loud, say it proud.
CB from PC says
Duncannon should have kept his walker for support and not “tossed” it at Tazewell.
Corrections Officers love an excuse to beat the S#!t out of people in jail. Silly inmate.
this officer did the right thing, I know that I can kill someone with a walker and I am sure the deputy knows someone can be killed with a walker, he felt threatened and did what he had to do to protect himself, I really hate that people are constantly pointing fingers at law enforcement and defending criminals. I think deputy Tazewell showed a lot of restraint. I would love to see an additional felony charge filed against duncanson.
I do not know what promoted to this jail employee in uniform to act in such a way…but I have read so many of our good law enforcement deputies in this county acting with compassion and humanity against mentally ill or nervous break down aggression that can’t blame all for one. I believe somehow justice was served as the officer resigned and definitely he needs some type of further training to be in law enforcement. Hope the inmate was not seriously injured. If so, lets go on with our lives as could be seeing aggression in both individuals in the video.
Mary Fusco says
Are you kidding me. The poor defenseless inmate attempted to bash the officer with his walker. I guess it would have been okay if the officer’s skull had been crushed. What a lot of horse mularkey. I hope this violent inmate gets sent where he belongs and this officer goes on to find a more lucrative and rewarding career.
Willy Boy says
Not much room in a cell for a walker. Maybe some specially designed cells for the handicapped with handrails would be warranted.
I'm Not Surprised says
Someone dies at the jail = no one fired! Gun stolen out of deputies car = no one fired! People of color getting chased out of the County and Sheriff’s Office on a routine basis which doesn’t say much as they’re not many.
Outside Looking Out says
With all due respect to the other folks commenting here, it seems to me that there is a far greater problem. A deputy is not trained nor qualified to handle mentally ill people. They are trained to defend themselves if attacked.
This inmate was declared incompetent to stand trial due to being mentally ill. He should not have been in the county jail but instead in a facility with trained individuals who know how to handle such a situation. This article says there is a shortage of available spots. There is the problem!
For this officer to lose his job for doing something he is not trained to do disgusts me. Why would someone condemn him for that? It’s like asking a bus driver to fly a 767 and then raising hell when it crashes.
Derrick Redder says
I AGREE ,Based on what I witnessed on tape the Deputy Should be Getting a medal. He not only overcame an assault he also prevented a escape, or worse .
Why was this inmate doubled up on when extracting ? The poor man regardless of his race is now without a means to feed his family. That Sheriff is not Ok.
Marie Leukens says
I agree with the big picture about mental health inmates being housed incorrectly and not in a facility. With everything going on with shootings, etc mental health needs to be taken under consideration in all ways including budgetary.
Another issue that is becoming obvious is the lack of hiring and/or firing of people of color in public positions in this County. Just recently the Sheriff’s Office gave the persona non grata to a person of color without warning. I wonder why?
Bill Harvey says
You can keep those shit jobs always under the camera , I rather be a janitor cleaning toilets