Calls mount to drop charges against Black woman who shot officer during raid on her home

Around the South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CBS/AP) — A group of activists and lawyers is calling for Florida authorities to drop charges against a Black woman who said she was acting in self-defense when she shot and wounded an officer during a raid on her home last year.

Diamonds Ford, 28, has said she never heard the SWAT officers identify themselves as law enforcement and thought she was firing at an intruder, as evidenced by the fact that Ford called 911 after firing her weapon.

Ford’s lawyer, Stephen Kelly, said Monday that the 911 call demonstrates that Ford didn’t know police were entering her Jacksonville home.

Diamonds Ford during WJAX-TV interview after she was released on bond from jail in February 2021. (WJAX-TV)

“Miss Ford, just hearing her voice, she was in fear,” Kelly said during a news conference outside the Duval County Courthouse. “She thought she was going to die that day.”

Ford and her 28-year-old fiancé, Anthony Gantt, are facing charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, according to court records.

Kelly and other supporters held Monday’s news conference to call for those charges to be dropped and to highlight what they said was a case of racial injustice faced by the two Black defendants.

According to the arrest report, SWAT officers were executing a residential search warrant Sept. 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide narcotics operation. Ford told authorities she and Gantt were asleep when she awoke to the sound of the bedroom window being broken.

The report said Ford shot one of the officers with a handgun before running to the bathroom and calling 911. The officer’s wounds weren’t life-threatening. Ford surrendered to law enforcement once she learned they were police.

According to the arrest report, authorities said they announced themselves via loudspeaker before executing the warrant.

Kelly said “no-knock” warrants, which have come under scrutiny across the nation since police in Louisville, Kentucky, killed Breonna Taylor last year, don’t exist in Florida. But he said if authorities don’t announce themselves properly so residents are aware of their presence, they’re essentially not knocking.

Ford’s bond was set last year at $535,000 dollars.

According to an Instagram post last week by Kelly, various groups collected money to pay for Ford’s bond. Kelly said Ford doesn’t pose a flight risk or a danger to the community, and her bond should not have been set for that amount.

“You don’t allow Black women to protect themselves. So we are here to ask you to protect Black women,” said Tray Johns, executive director of Dignity Power, which helps formerly incarcerated women. “We drove from all over the country and in six days we raised over half a million dollars for a Black woman.”

A cheerful Ford ran toward her family after she was released from jail Friday, reports CBS Jacksonville affiliate WJAX-TV.

Ford told the station she’s innocent and hopes the charges against her are dropped.

“I feel blessed Dignity Power did their thing, coming together in women empowerment to even get enough money to get me out. I am very appreciative,” Ford said.

Community organizations across the country including The National Bail Fund Network, and The Minnesota Freedom Fund also raised the funds to free her, the station said.

Gantt remains jailed on $350,000 bond. Attorneys have filed a motion to reduce his bond.

Ford’s arrest comes at a time of national conversation about systemic racism in law enforcement. Johns said prosecutors need to protect Black women and drop the charges against Ford.

“Dignity Power is going to stand here, and we’re going to protect her with our very lives,” Johns said.

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