Charges dropped against Tampa protester Jason Stuart Flores, says attorney

Flores was arrested for allegedly causing felony damage to a vehicle.

click to enlarge Jason Stuart Flores, during an Aug. 22 press conference in downtown Tampa, Florida. - Chandler Culotta
Chandler Culotta
Jason Stuart Flores, during an Aug. 22 press conference in downtown Tampa, Florida.


Gretchen Cothron, a volunteer attorney with the Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU, said the State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County has agreed to drop all charges against Indigenous activist Jason Stuart Flores, who was struck by a vehicle during an anti-racist protest in Hyde Park on June 27.

Gretchen shared the news with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay yesterday.

Flores was arrested for allegedly causing felony damage to a vehicle. He was also charged with three misdemeanors, including unlawful assembly, criminal mischief, and obstructing a highway.

The police report from the June 27 incident was rife with inaccuracies, claiming the driver “approached a group of protesters in the roadway” as he was driving eastbound on W. Swann Ave. toward Hyde Park Village. But as seen in video from the incident, protesters were actually gathered on S. Albany Ave, which is between a Winn Dixie parking lot and the Hyde Park Softball field.

RELATED
He was violently arrested and beaten by Tampa police officers, but the report never mentioned a word of it

On the day of the incident, protesters chanted through the streets for four hours in 99-degree Florida heat before arriving on this small side street beside the Winn Dixie. Activist Jae Passmore—who’d been struck on W. Swann Ave. a week earlier while protesting against police brutality and calling for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to fire Police Chief Brian Dugan for the use of less than lethal ammunition against George Floyd solidarity protesters on May 31 and June 1—led the June 27 march and held a moment of silence to honor the lives of black women and black trans lives lost to police violence.

While Flores and others knelt silently with their fists in the air a black Volkswagen drove northbound on S. Albany Ave. while most protesters had their backs turned. Protester and veteran Getulio Gonzalez-Mulattieri told WMNF that he was standing at parade rest while facing southbound when the vehicle pushed into his locked knees, prompting him to punch the windshield several times.

The car continued driving forward through the crowd and pushed against Flores who had risen from kneeling to protect the crowd. The car pressed on until Flores was pushed onto the hood, and then accelerated onto W. Swann Ave with Flores clinging to the car with one hand and holding his feather in the other hand. The car drove down Swann Avenue with Flores still on the hood. When the car was stopped in front of Irish 31, the driver was released and Flores was arrested for the damage Gonzalez-Mulattieri had caused while allegedly acting in self-defense. While video evidence of the incident has not yet been able to ascertain whether the car was struck before or after it ran into protesters, video evidence showed that the damage had been done before the car hit Flores.

In a Wednesday email with CL, Grayson Kamm, Chief Communications Officer for State Attorney Andrew Warren, said, "Our office has not yet taken action on these pending charges, so we cannot comment on the status of the case at this time."

But on Thursday, Kamm, told CL that his office was at the point of processing the paperwork for Flores and offered this explanation:

The driver was moving very slowly and tried to maneuver through protestors blocking traffic. Flores chose not to move out of the way and sat on the car’s hood as the car inched into him, after which the driver proceeded with Flores on the hood. There is no evidence that either person intended to cause harm, and therefore charges are not appropriate. Both people made decisions that escalated the situation, and basic courtesy by either person could have minimized or avoided this conflict.

Charges are not appropriate against Gonzalez-Mulattieri from the initial incident because the evidence establishes he hit the car with his arm after the car bumped into him. However, well after the initial incident, Gonzalez-Mulattieri repeatedly disobeyed instructions from law enforcement and pushed an officer. As a result, he is being charged with Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer. We support peaceful protests but will not condone getting physical with an officer, which can lead to injuries and escalate tense situations—when what we need is de-escalation to protect everyone’s safety.

Some protesters view the charges lobbied against them (before being dropped the state attorney for various reasons including lack of evidence) as an intimidation tactic. Some tax payers probably think the charges are a waste of their money, but in an email to CL, State Attorney Warren wrote that, "A good prosecutor is more than merely a rubberstamp who files charges on every arrest law enforcement makes."

"By design, we are different agencies with different objectives and different standards," Warren added. "They make urgent decisions to protect public safety in the moment, where we have the time to make decisions about public safety in the longer term, guided by a much higher burden of proof." 

Still, on Monday Governor Ron DeSantis proposed the “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” which would make obstructing a highway a third degree felony. Language in the proposed legislation also says drivers would not be liable for “injury or death caused if fleeing for safety from a mob. Cothron is a guest on attorney Haydee Opressa's legal webinar about the proposed law tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. via Facebook and YouTube.

UPDATED: 09/24/20 3:30 p.m. Updated to show the webinar hosted by Haydee Opressa and Thursday comments from the state attorney's office.

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter. Follow Creative Loafing Tampa Bay on Google News, too.

About The Authors

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
Scroll to read more Tampa Bay News articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]