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First Coast

Clay Sheriff Threatens To Deputize All Legal Gun Owners To Prevent ‘Lawlessness’


Facing a tough reelection campaign, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels has released a new video where he stands in uniform with more than a dozen other members of the department, saying while his department will protect “your constitutional rights” for a peaceful protest or march, that lawlessness will not be tolerated.

Delivering the message on the Sheriff’s Office's YouTube channel, Daniels said the second “you step out from up under the protection of the Constitution, we’ll be waiting on you, and will give you everything you want.”

The sheriff said that includes, “all the publicity, all the pain, all the glamour and glory, for all that five minutes will give you.”

The sheriff said tearing up Clay County is not acceptable, adding, if his department can’t handle a situation alone, “I’ll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county.”

Daniels did not mention a specific incident that triggered him to make the video but in a broad way did touch on the protests against police brutality that have been sweeping the nation.

“Look, folks, don't fall victim to subjecting yourself to this, this conversation that law enforcement is bad,  that law enforcement is the enemy of the citizens that we’re sworn to protect and serve," Daniels said.

The First Coast area has seen a series of protests since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Some predict protestors from across the nation could descend on the First Coast while Jacksonville hosts part of the Republican National Convention in August.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office video shows the sheriff and his deputies standing side by side – with no masks or social distancing – with patrol cars behind them.

Daniels ends the video by saying, “To stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility, that's what we're sworn to do. And that's what we're going to do. You've been warned.”

The sheriff, a Republican, is facing six challengers, all Republicans, in the August election. He has reported $56,045.00 in campaign contributions, according to the Clay County Supervisor of Elections.

Some of his competitors have substantially bigger campaign war chests, according to financial reports filed with the elections supervisor.


Candidate Ben Carroll is a retired emergency management specialist/SWAT team member at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, according to his Facebook page. He has $68,926.38 of campaign contributions.

Atlantic Beach Police Chief Michelle Cook entered the crowded field in January. She has the biggest campaign war chest to date with $126,449.27 in contributions.

Harold Rutledge also filed to run against Daniels. Rutledge is a former Clay County commissioner who has a long history in the criminal justice field and has $24,215.00 worth of campaign contributions.

Former FDLE agent Mike Taylor is making another run at sheriff after his failed campaign for sheriff in 2008. He has amassed $105,563.60 in contributions.

Catherine Webb, a 24-year Navy veteran and a Nassau County Sheriff’s Office deputy, has $14,904 in campaign contributions.

And Francis Bourrie, a write-in candidate, has no recorded campaign contributions.

Daniels’ tenure has been marked with controversy. He has been at the center of an FDLE investigation related to his affair with a woman he supervised when he was chief of the jail for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, as WJCT News partner News4Jax reported. 

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.