From the day it happened, on March 16, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has shrouded the incident in a veil of secrecy.
John Study, then 20, was standing in a parking
space in the busy 5 Points Publix parking lot trying to save it for his pregnant fiancée, Natalie Fuster, and her parents when another man decided he wanted that space. Following a few words between the two, the man backed his gold Toyota Corolla into the spot. Study says the other man's car struck him in the right knee. The man then pointed a black semiautomatic pistol at Study and told him to "get the fuck away from my car," Study has said numerous times.
He's been seeking medical treatment for his knee injury ever since. "It's not getting better," Study says. "I have to ice it a lot, especially after I get off work. It's gotten worse."
So, too, it seems, has the public disclosure surrounding the episode. That's because the Corolla's driver, Corinthian Roosevelt Morgan, 46, was an off-duty Jacksonville Sheriff's officer, something Study only learned after he called police to report the incident. When the cops arrived, they refused Study's requests for his alleged assailant's name — even though such an incident usually requires a written report with identification from all involved and an exchange of insurance information. The normal rules apparently didn't apply.
Study, his attorney, T.C. Roberts, and Folio Weekly were given no information about the incident for weeks. Following a strongly worded public records request, three weeks later the JSO finally gave Folio Weekly a report naming Morgan (before that, neither Roberts nor Study had been told the officer's name). Since then, getting any additional information out of JSO has been harder than sifting the fat out of butter.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, the JSO issued an internal investigation report, which found all of Study's allegations and those of three other witnesses against Morgan "unsustained." The JSO took the entire 180 days allowed for an internal investigation, then took three weeks to fulfill Folio Weekly's request for the final report.
The investigation's findings fly in the face of statements from Study, Fuster and her parents, who all said Morgan struck Study with his vehicle. They also contradict Morgan's own insurance company, which agreed to settle Study's claim against Morgan for $25,000 — though, per usual, the company added a statement that the settlement was not an admission of guilt on Morgan's part — as well as medical records that show that Study continues to suffer from an injury to his right knee.
The final report discounted all of the allegations against Morgan — criminal aggravated assault, criminal aggravated battery, leaving the scene of an accident, rudeness and unbecoming conduct — based mainly on what the investigator considered "inconsistent statements" by Study and his family members.
(Interestingly, the allegation of unbecoming conduct — for using the word "fuck" and then arguing with officers at the scene — was initially sustained by the internal affairs investigator, but later reversed by a director.)
A thorough review of the 61-page investigative summary shows that JSO officials determined that statements from witnesses differed primarily on how fast Morgan backed into the parking space. The answers ranged from "slowly" to "about 20 mph." Study has said Morgan "floored it." But all four witnesses said they saw Morgan hit Study. Only Study says he saw the gun; the Fusters' view was blocked.
The detective also questioned Study's slightly differing explanations of where Morgan was (sitting in his car with one leg out, or leaning into his car while standing) when he pointed the gun at Study, and the exact angle at which the gun was pointed. Study insists he always said Morgan was standing outside the car, but leaned in to get the gun, briefly point it at him, then return it to his backpack.
"They aren't really inconsistent," Roberts says. "I thought that with the inconsistencies that they point out, that they believe their man. If there are inconsistencies I would call them minor. I know from my experience that when witnesses tell the story four times, there are always going to be minor inconsistencies."
Still, the final report says there's no evidence of any wrongdoing or even that Morgan struck Study, despite medical records. Study is upset with the result, but says he's glad the JSO at least investigated. "The complaint was a real big thing to me," he says. "If I would have never gotten T.C. as my attorney, I feel like nothing would have happened. It would have just gotten swept under the rug."
The report does offer more of Morgan's version of events than was previously released.
Morgan says he thought Study had moved away when he backed into the parking spot. He says Study banged on the back of his car, so he stopped and opened his door, then took his gun, which he first said was on top of the backpack in his passenger seat, then later said was on the seat — an inconsistency that didn't bother the JSO investigator — and started to put it into his backpack. He says Study saw the Glock and said, "Oh, you're a big man with a gun."
Morgan, who is black, says Study then called him a "fucking nigger" and began to walk away. Morgan followed him: "I said, ‘What did you say? Say it again, what you said,'" he told the internal affairs investigator. As he was walking away from Study, Morgan told him, "Well, call me nigger one more time." Morgan denied cursing at him.
(Study says Morgan misheard him, and says he told him so at the time.)
When the police arrived, Morgan came out of a sushi restaurant within the Publix shopping plaza, sans backpack and weapon, and began talking to officers, some of whom said he was belligerent. He saw a rescue unit there with EMTs checking out Study and said to an officer, "So now he's hurt. Fuck this, man."
Morgan's wife came out and began talking with him. An officer told her she had to move away because they were investigating a complaint. According to the report, this angered Morgan further.
Morgan's backpack, which contained the gun, wound up in his wife's car. She did not have a concealed weapons permit.
Because Morgan was cleared of any wrongdoing, after spending six months on administrative duty, he's now back patrolling the city's Westside.
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