TAMPA — A Hillsborough sheriff’s sergeant was fired and arrested for pointing his weapon at the head of an unarmed Black man who was already in custody, Sheriff Chad Chronister announced Friday.
Sgt. Janak Amin had served 21 years with the agency. He faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
“Sgt. Amin’s actions, the violation of public trust and the dishonoring of his oath to serve and protect, is despicable,” the sheriff said at a Friday news conference outside the agency’s Ybor City headquarters.
The incident that cost the sergeant his job took place Thursday at the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Annie Street.
A jail inmate who was “inadvertently” taken to DACCO Behavioral Health Center left the facility, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies went looking for him. They found him hiding and detained the man, the sheriff said.
The man was placed in a “prone” position, but refused to give his name to deputies. “He was not armed and made no aggressive actions towards our deputies,” Chronister said.
The sheriff said Amin, who was kneeling next to the detained man, became angry, pulled out his weapon and threatened his life “simply because he refused to identify himself.” Chronister said Amin made comments to the man saying he would shoot him in the head.
Other deputies intervened, Chronister said, and defused the situation. They also used an alternative method to identify the man without his cooperation.
But Chronister emphasized what he called the “most egregious” nature of the incident: Amin pointed his gun just inches away from the head of an unarmed man, the sheriff said.
“I don’t think this incident is indicative of who Sgt. Amin is, but, regardless, it takes only one incidence to violate the oath that you take, the public’s trust and break the law,” Chronister said. “There is absolutely no reason, no excuse and no justification for why this sergeant acted the way he did.”
Chronister said he could not release the name of the victim due to the sheriff’s interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment that is designed to protect crime victims but also deprives the public of information that has historically been provided in Florida.
But Chronister said the man later told deputies that he was scared for his life.
The incident was reported to command staff by the deputies who are at the scene. An investigation was launched and Amin was taken off duty on Thursday.
Then on Friday, the sheriff said Amin was fired and arrested. Amin was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, then freed after posting $2,000 bail.
The victim was Black and the sergeant was of Asian descent. “I don’t believe for a second this had anything to do with race,” Chronister said.
Last month, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody, Chronister decided to equip his deputies with body-worn cameras. The County Commission voted to let the sheriff start the purchasing process.
Deputies aren’t equipped with those cameras yet, so the sheriff said there is no video footage of the incident.
But the Sheriff’s Office does have a policy that requires deputies to intervene if they see other deputies engaging in misconduct. Chronister said the deputies at the scene of Thursday’s incident did just that.
“There was no reason, no rationale or justification why anyone had to point a gun at his head and threaten his life simply because he didn’t identify himself,” Chronister said. “(Amin) will now have to face the criminal ramifications of what occurred.”
An earlier version of this article stated that Sgt. Amin was white. It has been adjusted to say he was of Asian descent.