Chronister called Amin’s behavior “despicable,” saying the man under arrest was not being aggressive with officers in any way. He was only quiet — apparently enraging Amin, Chronister said.
“I assure you, he wasn’t being uncooperative,” the sheriff said of the victim, whom the sheriff declined to identify. “The bottom line is there is no reason, no rationale or justification why anyone had to point a gun at his head and threaten his life simply because he refused to identify himself."
An attorney for Amin was not listed in court records and could not be immediately located, although Chronister said Amin declined to provide a statement to investigators at his attorney’s advice.
The victim was only under arrest in the first place because employees at the Hillsborough County Jail had accidentally released him. Chronister said the man had been “inadvertently” transferred to DACCO Behavioral Health, a treatment facility in Tampa for those with substance-abuse or mental-health issues, where he was not supposed to be. He then left the facility.
Once the sheriff’s office realized the mistake, they went looking for him. They found him hiding behind a trailer, Chronister said. When officers confronted the man and put him in a “prone position” — lying flat on his stomach on the ground — the handcuffed man would not give his name, Chronister said.
So Amin knelt down next to him. He drew his firearm and pointed it inches from the man’s head, the sheriff said, and then threatened him.
“What I think bothered [the other officers] the most is how egregious it was to have a person on the ground in a prone position, and you have a sergeant with his firearm pointed toward the individual’s head, inches away from his head — telling him that if he didn’t provide his name, he was gonna splatter his brains all over the concrete,” Chronister said.
The sheriff’s office later clarified that Amin did not use those exact words and for now it is unclear exactly what words he did use.
The victim said in a statement later that he didn’t give his name because he was “scared to death,” Chronister said.
Fellow officers on scene were alarmed by Amin’s threat, Chronister said. They told Amin they had equipment that would allow them to easily identify the man with the touch of a finger. A detective assured him this was the man they were looking for and stepped in to take the man into his own custody and walk away with him, the sheriff said.
Chronister said he did not believe “this had anything to do” with the victim’s race.
The sheriff applauded the deputies on scene who reported Amin to the command staff immediately after witnessing his behavior. He said they were following recent training requiring them to intervene when they witness excessive force by colleagues.
That policy has been newly implemented at police departments across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis on May 25. For police departments that have the “duty to intervene” policy, such as at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies who stand by while a colleague brutalizes people or engages in other unacceptable behavior could also face consequences for failing to step in to de-escalate the situation.
In Floyd’s case, the three officers who stood by while Officer Derek Chauvin dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while Floyd repeatedly cried, “I can’t breathe,” are also charged with aiding and abetting in his murder. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder.
Chronister said this policy has been in place for years in Hillsborough County, but he required all deputies to review a training video about the policy as recently as a few weeks ago.
“It’s important to share with you that the complainants in this case are all fellow law enforcement officers who acted immediately and reported this incident,” Chronister said. “I want to thank the deputies who came forward to report this most egregious incident. We expect, we demand, that our deputies uphold the highest level of professionalism, and that means intervene when another law enforcement officer, even a supervisor, betrays the public trust and theirs.”
Up until this event, Chronister said Amin led an “exemplary” two-decade career at the sheriff’s office, although Bay News 9 reported Amin was cleared in a fatal officer-involved shooting in 2007. He and a colleague reportedly fired on a man who allegedly refused to drop a gun — a shooting the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deemed “justified.”
Chronister said Amin had no record of unjustified use of force, but in these circumstances it didn’t matter.
“It only takes one incident to violate the oath that you take, violate the public’s trust and break the law,” he said.