South Florida sheriff’s deputy says 2 ATF agents assaulted him

(WSVN) - It started as a traffic stop. Now, a South Florida deputy is accusing two federal special agents of assaulting him. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin investigates.

This story starts two years ago.

Days after Hurricane Irma ravaged the Florida Keys, Monroe County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Jones was on patrol in his unmarked department pickup truck.

Sgt. Mark Jones, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office: “I was working days and nights. I mean, we didn’t get much sleep.”

Sergeant Jones had just finished helping remove debris on Sugarloaf Key when he saw an SUV stopped in the middle of the road.

Sgt. Mark Jones: “I’m like, ‘I wonder if they know we’re back here,’ so I honked my horn.”

Sergeant Jones pulled around the Suburban, but minutes later, the SUV appeared in his rear-view mirror with lights and sirens.

Sgt. Mark Jones: “I said, ‘Sheriff’s Office, why are you stopping me?’ They get out of their vehicle, and they are on a beeline for me. I mean, they’re coming at me, and I’m like, ‘Sheriff’s Office.’ I keep yelling ‘Sheriff’s Office, why are you stopping me?'”

Because Jones worked undercover, he was not in uniform.

The two men who pulled him over were federal agents with ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives.

The agents were in the keys assisting with hurricane recovery.

Sgt. Mark Jones: “The guy put his gun within inches of my face. Cussing, using profanity the entire time. They threw me over the hood. They put my arm behind my back, and took my wrist up to the back of my neck. I knew the second they injured me.”

The agents let Sergeant Jones go, but he suffered multiple tears in his shoulder and needed surgery.

Jones was out of work for four months.

Sgt. Mark Jones: “They were on a mission. Their mission was ‘Teach this guy a lesson for honking his horn. We’re federal agents. How dare you?’ I went from being able to help people to being beat up by other law enforcement.”

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation.

One neighbor came forward with this cellphone video and told investigators — in a recorded interview — the federal agents overreacted.

Witness:” If you ask me, personally, it was uncalled for, to the extent where he pushed the suspect or the other officer up against the vehicle, had his arm under control behind his back, shoved him down on the vehicle. At one point, guns were drawn.”

Sergeant Jones wanted the two federal agents criminally charged, but after meeting with the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, prosecutors decided not to file charges.

Attorney and former FBI Agent Stuart Kaplan represents Jones.

They’re suing the federal government and ATF agents Luis Arias and Jason Wilson.

Stuart Kaplan, Attorney: “There is no doubt these two guys should be fired. They probably should be criminally prosecuted and certainly held responsible and accountable for their actions.”

The ATF would not comment to 7News, but in a court filing to dismiss the lawsuit, the special agents’ attorney wrote, “In the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane, the SAs were justified in drawing their weapons and placing hands on Jones until they could positively establish that he was a member of the MCSO…”

Sgt. Mark Jones: “Like I said, I have worked with the best men and women in law enforcement, and to see what just happened to me has changed me forever. OK, I see what good is, and I have seen what evil looks like behind a badge.”

Sergeant Jones is back on the job patrolling the Middle Keys but still traumatized and hoping for justice.

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