A bar customer who Jacksonville Beach Police officers stunned with a Taser and struck with a baton now said he’s the victim.
“I was just protecting myself. I didn't want to get hurt,” Christopher White told Action News Jax in an exclusive interview.
The video of his scuffle with police outside Surfer the Bar on 1st Street North is going viral.
Staff at the bar reported to police that White walked out on his tab and punched a bouncer.
In the video, White does not appear combative at the time a Jacksonville Beach Police Department officer deploys the first Taser.
White pulls the prongs off from the first Taser, seemingly unaffected.
“Stop doing that,” White can be heard saying in the video.
That leads to a second Taser deployment from a second officer, as well as an attempted headlock, which White wriggles out of.
“I’m not fighting,” said White as an officer beat his thigh with a baton.
White swats at the officer during the baton beating.
A third Taser from a third officer takes him to the ground.
White denies walking out on his tab, denies punching anyone, and denies resisting arrest.
White said a bartender got mad when fraud protection locked up his credit card.
“So she started yelling, ‘You need to pay your bill. You need to pay your bill.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, I have another card,’” White said.
A transaction on his second card appears to show he paid his $235 tab, plus a $50 tip he said he didn’t authorize.
White said when he gave the bartender his second card, someone hit him in the head with a bottle. That’s why White said he was disoriented when dealing with police.
“After that, I was stumbling and went outside. And I was trying to explain to the cop that, ‘Hey, I paid my tab and I was hit in the head with a bottle.’ And I couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” White said.
Witness Jon McGowan said he was at the bar and saw the whole thing.
“They had to actually drag him out. It took about four or five people to get him out of the bar. And during the time, he was very red-faced, screaming, yelling, swinging,” McGowan said.
McGowan refutes White’s claim that he did not punch anyone at the bar.
“Oh, that’s not true. He threw a few punches in there,” McGowan said.
McGowan said he thinks officers did the right thing.
“They reacted appropriately because he was violent and he was very violent in the bar. And he had been violent outside as well,” McGowan said.
Court records in Putnam County, where White lives, show he has no prior criminal cases there, just traffic and civil.
After Action News Jax’s story aired on Tuesday, a witness came forward with new video showing White’s friend Jesus Ruiz also being stunned outside the bar moments later.
Another friend of White, a 62-year-old woman with a cane and a bad hip, said police threatened to stun her too.
“I was just totally in shock,” Deborah Deen said.
Deen was right next to White and Ruiz during their scuffles with police.
Deen can be heard pleading with officers in a witness’s cellphone video.
“I was like, ‘Why did you do that?’ to one of the female officers. And she says, ‘Well, do you want to be next?’” Deen said.
The officer who wrote the incident report left out that he put White in a choke hold from behind with his baton.
Jacksonville Beach Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Crumley declined to be interviewed, but sent Action News Jax the following statement:
“In regards to the claims and allegations you said are coming from Mr. White’s Attorney, we have not received any communication from Mr. White, nor his attorney with these claims. Regardless, the incident is currently under an active review as a use of force by our officers. Anytime an officer from this agency uses any force, this process is followed, with or without internal or external complaints. Due to the ongoing investigation and review of this incident, we will not be making any statements until we ensure a complete and thorough investigation has been conducted. It is best that we not rush to judgment with any statements condemning or commending the officers and their actions. We will continue to gather all of the facts and review all of the evidence available in this case. Once a complete and thorough review of this incident is complete, the administration will then determine if the officers used force appropriately or if there is need for further investigation into the matter. Thank you for understanding the seriousness of the allegations you have laid out and the need for a complete and thorough investigation into this matter.”
Surfer the Bar has not responded to Action News Jax’s multiple requests for an interview since Tuesday morning.
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