NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Protesters marched Sunday asking for the New Port Richey Police Department to drop charges against a Black Lives Matter activist officers arrested in late July.
The protest was peaceful but vocal. Organizers have marched in New Port Richey on a weekly basis for months, demanding an end to racism. But on Sunday, they were also asking for charges to be dropped against Marlowe Jones.
This all stems from an incident on July 24 of this year. Black Lives Matter activists were marching in New Port Richey when a fight broke out on the street.
Protesters and police say a man who was not part of the BLM protest started fighting with an activist. Officers with the New Port Richey Police Department ran over to end the fight between the man, and Stephanie Hinkle, a protester.
New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart says Hinkle was lawfully carrying a concealed gun, and officers were trying to deal with that while protesters surrounded them.
“He’s got a subject on the ground, and Mr. Jones, first is tapping him on the shoulder, then turns away, pulls up his shirt, and makes this movement like he’s going to reach into his pants for a weapon," said New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart. "Our officer reaches out, grabs his hand, and that’s when he started to push our officer."
Officers arrested the man who started the fight that night. They also detained Stephanie Hinkle briefly and found she had a handcuff key in her pocket. Chief Bogart said Hinkle did not disclose to officers that she was carrying a handcuff key, which is a third-degree felony in Florida. Officers did not arrest Stephanie that night.
A week later on July 31, officers arrested Stephanie Hinkle on a charge of possessing a handcuff key. They also arrested Marlowe Jones on charges of obstruction and battery on a law enforcement officer.
“We didn’t make that arrest immediately because I wanted to see all of the videos, everything that was available, to make sure that that incident that triggered this arrest, was as I was told,” said Chief Bogart.
The New Port Richey Police Department finally released the body cam video from the arrest.
Video of the arrest shows Stephanie Hinkle on the ground, and Marlowe Jones standing up next to her.
Marlowe Jones says he thinks he is being targeted. ABC Action News asked him if he did the things he is accused of.
“No. No. And you can actually see in the videos that we have, my hands are up the whole time," said Marlowe Jones. "And if I did that, if I had put my hands, a black man, on an officer in New Port Richey, I would’ve been thrown to the ground immediately."
Jones is now asking for the police department to drop the charges and conduct an independent investigation.
“Fifteen to 20 officers for one peaceful black man. This was a show. They wanted to embarrass me, they was hoping I was violent,” said Jones.
Chief Bogart says his officers acted professionally.
“‘Mr. Jones this, Mr. Jones that, relax, quit yelling,’ and they gently handcuffed him, gently escorted him into our parking lot," said Chief Bogart.
Protesters in New Port Richey say they plan to continue peacefully protesting every week.