Josue Garriga III. | News4JaxJosue Garriga III. | News4Jax
Josue Garriga III. | News4Jax

Jacksonville police officer jailed in sex case involving teen

Published on March 28, 2024 at 2:58 pm

A Jacksonville police officer who was cleared in the fatal shooting of a suspect in 2019 has been arrested in a Clay County sex crime investigation involving a teenage girl.

Josue Garriga III, 34, resigned from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office before his arrest Wednesday on multiple charges including unlawful sexual activity with certain minors, lewd touching and transmission of harmful material to a minor, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office reported.

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Garriga remains in the Clay County Jail. He is the same deputy who shot and killed Jaime Johnson, 22, during a traffic stop Dec. 14, 2019. An investigation by the State Attorney’s Office found the shooting to be justified.

On Sept. 29 last year, Garriga was accused of excessive force while arresting Le’Keian Inarius Woods, 24. Sheriff T.K. Wood said he acted appropriately.

Then Mach 3, Clay County investigators received a telephone call from a mother saying she had found inappropriate communications between her 17-year-old daughter and a man later identified as Garriga. The mother also said that people had seen flirtatious behavior at a church between her daughter and an adult male who owned that same phone number, the investigation showed.

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A review of the girl’s phone found 350 calls or attempts between early November and March 6. Some were calls and some FaceTime communications. Investigators confirmed that Garriga was the caller and verified the incident at the church through a witness, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said.

The girl told investigators she met Garriga at the church and exchanged phone numbers, then he suggested she download the WhatsApp application on her phone so they could communicate, Clay County officials said. He used the app to send nude photos of himself to her and solicited images from her, investigators said.

The girl also described meetings between herself and Garriga, the last on March 6 at a Clay County business that was captured on video, Clay investigators said. That is when there was “inappropriate physical interaction” with Garriga in his vehicle, they said.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office believes there could be other victims and asks anyone with more information to call (904) 264-6512.

Garriga’s history

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office hired Garriga in July 2018. He was assigned to its investigations division.

On Dec. 14, 2019, he shot and killed Johnson during a scuffle caught on police bodycam after a traffic stop on Buckman Street, according to police reports.

Garriga and another officer had pulled over Johnson’s car over a seat-belt violation. Garriga smelled marijuana and said Johnson was acting nervous. He asked the young man to get out of the car, and Johnson complied, Chief T.K. Waters said at the scene that night.

Officer Josue Garriga (left) is seen with Jaime Johnson during the latter’s 2019 traffic stop. Seconds later, Johnson was shot and killed by Garriga when he drove away, police said. | Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Garriga questioned Johnson about possible marijuana flakes on his shirt, the video shows. The officer also asked him if he had anything he needed to know about in the car. Johnson told him he had a gun inside a jacket on the floor.

Garriga was about to escort him to his police car when the young man is seen on video shoving the officer away. Garriga lost his bodycam in the struggle, so the other officer’s camera video shows Johnson driving down the street before smashing through a fence. Police said Johnson reached for the gun, and Garriga fired his.

After Johnson was shot, bodycam video shows him on the ground begging for help while officers waited at least two minutes for backup before rendering any aid.

“Please don’t let me die,” he told the officers. “Please don’t let me die, sir.”

He died at the hospital, police said.

The State Attorney’s Office ruled Garriga was justified in the shooting, and the Sheriff’s Office said the use of force was within policy.

Johnson’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit three years ago, saying that it is clear Johnson was shot facing Garriga outside the car, not as they struggled inside as the officer testified. It states that Garriga’s actions were “malicious and/or involved reckless, callous and deliberate indifference” to Johnson’s rights.

The city settled the case for $200,000, according to News4Jax, a Jacksonville Today news partner.

The next incident involving Garriga was Sept. 29, 2023, when Woods was arrested on drug charges. His arrest report said Garriga, working with a Sheriff’s Office gang unit near Toledo Road and Powers Avenue, saw a parked Dodge Durango joined by a gray pickup truck with three people inside. Garriga suspected a drug deal, he said.

A man in black got out of the pickup, his “pants weighing heavy on the right side of his person,” Garriga wrote. Garriga radioed other detectives that the person might be armed.

Garriga said he recognized Woods and watched him counting cash outside the Durango before getting back into the pickup as it was driven away. Garriga stated that the pickup’s driver was not wearing a seatbelt, so officers in unmarked vehicles followed it to Kensington Gardens Lane and surrounded it.

Two men in the pickup were ordered out and handcuffed, as shown on bodycam video that the Sheriff’s Office released later. But Woods ran, chased by Detective Hunter Sullivan, who ordered him to stop before firing his Taser.

When Woods kept running, Sullivan fired the Taser again, hitting the young man. He fell down, but Sullivan wrote in the report that Woods “actively resisted” being handcuffed, adding that the man had blood on his face “from falling to the pavement.”

The report also said Sullivan hit Woods in the face, then “delivered four more strikes to the suspect’s face with my right fist and one strike to the right side of his ribs,” the report said. Police said that the struggle continued despite officers trying to “safely place him into custody.”

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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