Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shootout over Pair of Stolen Jeans; an Officer Is Still in Critical Condition after the Chase

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Shootout over Pair of Stolen Jeans; an Officer Is Still in Critical Condition after the Chase

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS and DANA TREEN

An 18-year-old Jacksonville man killed during a gunfight with a police officer Saturday night was stealing a pair of jeans from the department store he was fleeing, police said Sunday.

Joel Abner, of the 3500 block of Townsend Boulevard, died after being hit by seven bullets in the side, face, top of his head and back. He was found wearing a pair of stolen jeans on top of his own clothing.

Officer Jared Reston was hit six times, including three bullets that were stopped by his body armor vest. He was listed in critical condition Sunday afternoon at Shands Jacksonville with a broken jaw and other injuries.

The gunfight erupted about 7:45 p.m. after Abner led Reston on a foot chase that began outside the Belk store at Regency Square mall.

In the final moments, Reston was knocked to the ground and Abner "jumped around the officer, shooting at him" with a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun, Undersheriff Frank Mackesy said.

Reston was able to get back up and return fire, police said.

"It was a fight for life and they were in close-quarter combat," Mackesy said Sunday. "Just by the grace of God we didn't have a dead officer."

Reston fired 14 times and Abner 12, police said. Reston was hit in the face, buttocks and leg during the shootout.

Before the chase and shooting, Reston and officer Chis Brown were working off-duty and in uniform at the department store when store security asked them to monitor the apprehension of two shoplifters.

Abner and Christopher D. Smith, 20, of the 2700 block of East Sack Drive, had been observed leaving the store with merchandise, according to a police report, and were confronted in the parking lot.

While Smith struggled with store security officers, the report said, Abner "began slowly moving away from the scene," and then broke in to a run, heading across Arlington Expressway and down Atlantic Boulevard with Reston and Brown in pursuit. …

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