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‘Jax 5’ Protester Raising Funds To Sue Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Connell Crooms via Facebook

A partially-deaf protester arrested at Hemming Park a couple of months ago said he’s planning to sue the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Connell Crooms wasprotesting U.S. airstrikes in Syria when he was detained and injured during the arrest. Charges against him have since been dropped.

On Facebook and afundraising website, Crooms said he plans to sue JSO for alleged police brutality — he had to be transported by ambulance to a hospital following his run-in with officers.

“The Sheriff's office must answer for this so it goes without saying that there will be a lawsuit!  It would be a great BIG help if you all could donate to help ease the burden of legal expenses!” Crooms wrote on his page.

He was initially charged with inciting a riot and resisting arrest, though State Attorney Melissa Nelson dropped those charges, along with charges against another of five protesters arrested at the same time. The remaining three took plea deals.

Leslie Jean-Bart, a Jacksonville attorney who’s litigated cases against public entities, said Crooms’ threatened lawsuit would be expensive and complicated.

“You have to decide if you’re going to file in state court or federal court. If you’re filing in state court, there are notice requirements you have to comply with,” she said. “Especially in Jacksonville, they’re very specific in how you do them, who you send them to and what you include in the notice.”

She said if Crooms files in federal court,he must claim a specific policy or custom violated his civil rights.

Either way, she said, the cost of the case would likely far exceed the $6,000 Crooms is trying to raise.

“You have attorneys who could bill anywhere between — if their time was really valued — could bill anywhere between $300 and $800 an hour,” she said.

Jean-Bart added that doesn’t include the cost of hiring expert witnesses for Crooms’ defense.

A Facebook message to Crooms was not returned by this story’s deadline.

Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.