Anthony Christopher Gantt is arrested Sept. 28, 2020, as shown in an image from police bodycam. | Jacksonville Sheriff's OfficeAnthony Christopher Gantt is arrested Sept. 28, 2020, as shown in an image from police bodycam. | Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
Anthony Christopher Gantt is arrested Sept. 28, 2020, as shown in an image from police bodycam. | Jacksonville Sheriff's Office

Couple freed in police shooting after cops are charged

Published on November 8, 2023 at 2:53 pm

A couple accused of trying to kill a police officer will not be prosecuted because two other police officers face drug charges and can’t testify reliably, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped attempted murder charges against Anthony Christopher Gantt and Diamond Jonquil Ford, both 31.

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The State Attorney’s Office said it had no choice because Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joshua Earrey and Nassau County Deputy Darryl Hickox — both former DEA task force members — are charged on their own with drugs, weapons and tax evasion, tainting any testimony they would give.

“The criminal indictments of two DEA task force members — who are essential to the state’s evidence — are fatal to the prosecution of Diamonds Ford and Anthony Gantt,” state attorney’s spokesman David Chapman said in an email. “But for these arrests, the prosecution would have continued.”

Gantt and Ford were arrested Sept. 28, 2020, after Jacksonville Detective R.M. Nauss was shot multiple times as he helped DEA agents serve a warrant for suspected drug trafficking at a home on Rutledge Pearson Drive, police said.

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Police bodycam video shows Gantt’s and Ford’s arrests. As she is being led to a police cruiser, Ford says they did not know that DEA agents were serving a warrant for suspected drug trafficking.

“They said they hopped on the intercom — I didn’t hear any of that,” Gantt says from the back of a police car on bodycam video. “I didn’t hear no ‘come out.’ I didn’t hear the first thing. I’m … dead asleep.”

When questioned later by police, both said they thought someone was trying to break into their home, and that is when Nauss was shot, according to a statement filed this week by prosecutors.

“Neither said they heard any announcements until after the shooting took place,” the statement said. “Both said they only heard the sound of breaking glass, and they saw someone attempting to make entry into their bedroom. In response, Gantt handed Ford’s gun to her and instructed her to shoot out the window, which she did. … While she is on the phone with a dispatcher, SWAT can be heard making announcements over the loudspeaker.”

Police bodycam footage shows the site where a DEA task force was serving a warrant in 2020 when a Jacksonville sheriff’s detective was shot. | Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Nauss took shots to his bullet-resistant vest. Then-Sheriff Mike Williams said at the time that the vest “saved his life today without a doubt.” But the case changed after Hickox and Earrey were charged with a drug crime.

Hickox was arrested in early March on a charge of intent to distribute controlled substances. The investigation began when the FBI said a confidential informant said he had information about criminal activity, the complaint said.

The informant said Hickox and another officer stole seized drugs and cash and conspired to use controlled substances. With a federal search warrant issued in March, agents searched Hickox’s garage and found crack cocaine, a loaded handgun and a bag containing 44 grams of fentanyl, the complaint said. More cocaine and fentanyl were found, plus three shoeboxes containing about $100,000 cash and just over $76,000 in a locked bedroom safe, the complaint said.

FBI agents interviewed the other unnamed officer, who said Hickox taught him how to “surreptitiously open sealed evidence bags” of cash seized by the DEA so money could be removed, then reseal them without detection, the complaint said. The investigators also found that Hickox “routinely deposited thousands of dollars in U.S. currency in a day” at multiple ATMs. But he said he did not recall where that money came from, the complaint said.

A separate federal complaint focuses on Earrey, who is charged with unlawful user or addict of controlled substances while in possession of a firearm.

A trooper for 22 years, Earry was assigned in 2020 to the DEA task force, the complaint said. Earrey is accused of working in concert with Hickox, according to the statement from prosecutors.

More importantly, the indictments against Earrey and Hickox raise “significant questions” about the events leading up to the shooting, prosecutors said. That is because the trafficking and sale charges against Gantt and Reginald were both orchestrated by Hickox, and they were conducted by Hickox’s confidential source, the statement says.

Both men are no longer law enforcement officers, their departments confirm.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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