The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office said it will not file charges against an activist who jumped on the hood of a car as it drove through a June protest in Tampa. His attorney said he shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.
Jason Stuart Flores might not be facing prison time any longer, but his attorney Gretchen Cothron said that doesn’t mean his arrest hasn’t changed things for the 35-year-old activist.
“This is 2020, he’s been all over the internet. There’s really no way for him to wipe out the arrest having occurred,” she said. “There are collateral consequences to an arrest that can affect a person’s ability to get a job, move into a house or apartment. Things like that. Unfortunately, he still has that arrest on his record.”
Flores was arrested in June after a car drove through a group of protesters in Hyde Park.
According to his arrest report, the car, driven by an unidentified male, headed east on Swann Avenue when it approached protestors in the road. The report says the driver tried to move around them, but was blocked. It goes on to say protesters kicked the car and Flores jumped on the hood, banging the windshield until it broke. He stayed on the hood as the car drove away.
But, Cothron points out, video, which was available to police before the arrest shows almost none of that was the case.
“The police report has the wrong street. It’s riddled with mistakes and inconsistencies,” Cothron said. “The statement in the police report as to Mr. Flores jumping on the hood of a car and banging on the windshield until the windshield broke. We know from the video that’s not what happened. The windshield was already broken before the driver even got near Mr. Flores.”
According to video, the driver was on Albany Avenue, not Swann. And no protesters are seen striking the car before the driver pushes through, then turns onto Swann with Flores on the hood.
Protesters followed the car as it drove until stopping outside the Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery at Swann and Rome Avenue. Cothron said police had access to a number of witnesses, including restaurant staff and media, available, but chose only to interview the driver and arrest Flores.
“It’s frustrating to see that police are being so one sided,” she said.
Tampa Police declined to comment for this story.
Flores wasn’t the only one arrested because of the incident.
More than a week later, police arrested activist Getulio Gonzalez-Mulattieri and accused him of hitting the car and shattering the windshield as well. He was also arrested on a charge of battery against a law enforcement officer for trying to push through as Flores was being detained.
State Attorney spokesperson Grayson Kamm said charges weren’t appropriate against the driver or Flores because there’s no evidence either intended to cause harm. But he noted both of them unnecessarily escalated the situation.
Flores faced three misdemeanor charges and one count of felony criminal mischief.
Gonzalez-Mulattieri also faced a felony criminal mischief charge for damaging the car, along with felony battery on a law enforcement officer and two misdemeanors. Kamm said the misdemeanor and criminal mischief charges weren’t appropriate, but the battery charge was because Gonzalez-Mulattieri disobeyed and pushed a law enforcement officer.
Gonzalez-Mulattieri’s attorney did not respond to request for comment.
The news comes as protesters in Tampa and St. Pete continue to see
As protest calling for police reform and systemic racism continue through Tampa Bay and across the country, Cothron said the type of policing that led to Flores’s arrest only makes things worse.
“Unfortunately it’s just going to sow more discontent,” Cothron said. “Because the way they are treating it, so one sided as us vs. them.”
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan accused Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren of acting like the judge and jury by dropping charges against some protesters.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Dugan feels Warren is making enforcing the law more difficult for his police officers, while Warren said his office has been consistent in its approach to filing, or not filing, charges.
Listen to the 5:30 p.m. WMNF News headlines for 29 September 2020:
Listen to the 4:30 p.m. WMNF News headlines for 29 September 2020:
Listen to the 3:30 p.m. WMNF News headlines for 29 September 2020: