The way Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Jason Franqui described it, he was about to be run over by a madman in a minivan.
He even made eye contact with him as the driver, who turned the steering wheel directly into his path in a final stare-d0wn before attempting to kill him.
Naturally, Franqui feared for his life and pulled out his gun, firing six shots, striking the 17-year-old Down syndrome boy who had taken his family’s minivan without permission for a low-speed joyride through the western suburbs of the county on a single flat-tire.
A modern-day menace to society in the eyes of Franqui, who was responding to a call from Jeremy Hutton’s concerned mother that her son does not know how to drive and may not understand basic societal cues.
“It shot right at me,” he told investigators the night of October 10, 2010, moments after the shooing.
“I had to pull my firearm and started discharging it.”
But a traffic camera painted a different picture, showing Hutton veered the steering wheel left, not right, in an attempt to elude the deputy who had pulled directly in front of him as he sat in a traffic light, stepping out of the car with his gun drawn.
Hutton did strike the patrol car’s open door, but Franqui did not start firing until after the van had moved past his car when he was nowhere near in danger of being struck.
As a result, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office this month settled with Hutton’s family for more than $500,000.
Two bullets entered the van through the rear window and two entered through the rear passenger window, further indicating the shots were fired from behind.
Another two bullets entered another passing car, but fortunately, that driver was not struck.
Franqui, asserted, that he was only trying to keep everybody safe.
But Hutton ended up crashing into another vehicle after he was struck three times from behind, ending up with bullet wounds to the back of the head, his upper back and his hand.
Bleeding profusely, Hutton stepped out of the car, disoriented and confused as Franqui ran up and swept his legs from beneath him.
Hutton, unable to comprehend what was going on due to his mental disability, lifted his head up, prompting another deputy named Keith Bender to slam it down hard on the street, holding it down for six minutes as he continued bleeding.
An ambulance eventually transported Hutton to a hospital, who miraculously survived, then the deputies began concocting their stories with members of the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office who were on the scene investigating the incident, which is included in the video below.
“I watched the driver, he turned the wheel, and he starts coming at me,” Franqui explained in the video posted below.
“And what did you do,” the female investigator asks.
“That’s when I completely drew my firearm and started firing as he reached where I was,” he said.
The female investigator then has him walks towards his car to get more details.
“So you’re getting out of your car, a couple of second goes by, then what happens with the van,” she asks.
“It shot right at me,” he claimed.
“And what were you feeling?” she said, coaxing and coaching for him to say the magic phrase.
“I was in fear, fear he was going to hit me,” Franqui said.
“You felt it was going to hit you,” she asked.
“So what did you do?” she asked.
“I had to pull my firearm and started discharging it,” he said.
It took months before Palm Beach County sheriff’s office even acknowledged video of the incident even existed. Audio recordings between Franqui and dispatchers prove he knew the teen was developmentally disabled.
The evidence coming to light over the span of several months and years after the shooting is what led to a lawsuit against the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in 2014, which is estimated to have cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars in total.
However, Franqui’s actions were found to be reasonable and he remains employed with the sheriff’s office.