The incident took place on Aug. 12, when Bradford County sheriff’s deputy Jacob Desue attempted to pull over Ebony Washington for speeding. (She was going 20 mph over the 55 mph speed limit.) Washington didn’t immediately pull over, but when she eventually did at a gas station, Desue took out his gun and told Washington in front of her young children, who are 10, seven, and one, “If you make any movement, it’ll be the last mistake you’ll ever make.”
Prior to Washington pulling over, body cam footage shows Desue telling the mother of three, “Pull the vehicle [over] or I’ll put you into the ground.” In a cellphone video of the incident, which one of her kids recorded, that was posted to Facebook, Washington then explains to Desue that she was hesitant to pull over because she was driving alone on a highway in the middle of nowhere. “I’m trying to tell you the only reason why I didn’t stop. I’m a very educated woman with a master’s degree… I was only not because it’s dark out and I have three kids with me. I’m pregnant, and I did not want them to feel uncomfortable,” she says in the footage. “I didn’t want to be able to not have anyone else around,” Washington explained to KAIT8 after the incident.
Nonetheless, Desue was dismissive of Washington’s concerns and continued to point his gun at her. Body cam footage shows him telling Washington her explanation “means nothing.”
“All of that is shady, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing right now,” Desue says in the footage. “I understand there’s a whole facade around law enforcement, traffic stops. But you being scared is what’s got you in this mess right now.”
The Bradford County Sheriff’s Department has since tried to distance itself from Desue’s actions, confirming to a CBS affiliate that the deputy had several disciplinary strikes on his record prior to his threats to Washington. “We’re not condoning his behavior at all,” Sheriff’s Office Colonel Brad Smith told the outlet. “I mean, watching it, hearing it… [It’s] completely unprofessional, completely out of line for how we want to present ourselves here at the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office.”
Desue’s handcuffing of Washington is especially concerning. Advocates and experts have for years fought to stop pregnant incarcerated people from being shackled. The American Medical Association has called shackling pregnant people “a barbaric practice that needlessly inflicts excruciating pain and humiliation,” and notes that restraining pregnant people “increases their potential for physical harm from an accidental trip or fall.”
Violence against pregnant people—and especially pregnant people of color—is an endemic issue among law enforcement, from traumatic incidents like Desue’s mistreatment of Washington to the shackling of pregnant incarcerated people, to the punishment of pregnant people who have experienced harm. In 2019, Alabama police officers arrested and briefly jailed a Black pregnant woman named Marshae Jones, charging her with manslaughter for miscarrying after being shot in the stomach.
Washington says she feared the incident easily could have turned fatal. “Had I done any type of movement outside of what he asked me to do, that could’ve been the opportunity for him to pull the trigger,” she told KAIT8. Even though Desue is no longer a deputy at the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is still in the midst of determining whether he’ll retain his certification.