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JFRD engineer arrested for sexual battery; sources say the victim has ‘intellectual disabilities’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A Jacksonville engineer is out on bond after he was arrested for sexual battery. Law enforcement sources told Action News Jax that the victim has intellectual disabilities.

Vincent Harper, 49, joined the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) in 2009. This weekend, he was arrested and charged with sexual battery on a victim who ran away from UF Health’s 5th floor, according to surveillance footage and a police report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO).

Action News Jax told you back in October of 2019 that Harper jumped into action when an ambulance patient began stabbing his captain. In 2020, he was recognized for his effort by the American Legion National Headquarters as ‘Firefighter of the Year.’

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An arrest report obtained by Action News Jax details the sexual battery allegations.

The report said the victim told a JSO special assault unit officer, a man in a white vehicle with tinted windows yelled at the victim to “come here.” At first, the victim declined but eventually got in the vehicle. The man was later identified as Harper. Much of the information in the report is redacted because of Marsy’s Law, which protects information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim. The victim asked Harper to pick someone up from the Police Memorial Building, in downtown Jacksonville. Instead, Harper took the victim to his home “inside the bedroom.”

After the alleged attack, Harper dropped the victim off at the Sulzbacher shelter, according to the police report. The victim then went to the Police Memorial Building and was taken back to the hospital by a patrol officer. When the victim returned to UF Health, the victim reported a sexual battery had taken place. The victim advised they had been raped. The victim’s identity is redacted from the report.

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Our Action News Jax law and safety expert, Dale Carson, who has years of experience as an attorney, police officer, and FBI agent, weighed in on the potential outcome if this case ends in a conviction as charged.

“Life in prison if it’s proven, but there’s a clear issue. This is an accusation. The accusation has to overcome the burden of consent,” Carson said. “Did the individual who was accused meet the necessary requirements for obtaining consent?”

Action News Jax, Meghan Moriarty, went to the address listed on the arrest report to get Harper’s side of the story. No one answered the door. Moriarty also called the phone number listed for Harper, but the person who answered the phone hung up.

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Action News Jax also found Harper has an open lawsuit against JFRD, alleging discrimination and a hostile work environment.

We reached out to the department for comment. A spokesperson said, “Engineer Harper has been suspended without pay, pending termination.”

Harper’s next court date is August 8, 2023.

Related read: Former Jacksonville Firefighter of the Year accused of sexual battery, suspended without pay

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