Dispute at convenience store leads to GPD internal inquiry
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.
A heated altercation at a convenience store between a customer and the clerk resulted in an internal investigation of a Gainesville Police Department officer’s conduct.
The incident happened on the afternoon of Jan. 20 when Jermaine Foster, 36, of Jacksonville, was getting a drink at the Eighth Avenue Food store, located at 1634 NE Eighth Ave., according to a GPD arrest report.
A confrontation began between Foster and M.D. Uddin, 33, a clerk working behind the counter at the store, and police were called. Uddin ended up being charged in the incident with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, without the intent to kill, GPD said.
GPD Officer Andy Zawadzki was the first to arrive on the scene, records show, and Foster would eventually file a complaint against Zawadski due to the officer’s alleged conduct.
Foster said Zawadzki was sarcastic and short with him when he showed up at the scene, and told Foster to go home — that he couldn’t do anything about the situation.
According to both clerk and customer, the confrontation erupted over some change. Foster gave Uddin some coins, but it wasn’t enough to buy the drink, so the two started arguing. Racial slurs were allegedly made. The situation escalated quickly.
A video of the incident did not have audio, the report said.
Both men say Uddin jumped over the counter holding a baseball bat.
When asked about the incident, Uddin said he held the bat in front of him — like how you’d hold a shotgun — and told Foster to leave. Foster said he exercised some restraint.
“I’m licensed by the state of Florida to carry a firearm,” he said. “But I didn’t pull my weapon. I pulled out my wallet.”
Foster showed Uddin his concealed carry permit, and told him to be careful who he pulls a bat on. Then he left and called police.
Foster said Zawadzki was first on the scene and didn’t even go into the store.
Foster said the officer told him, “I already talked to the owner, and you were acting belligerent and disrespectful.”
He said the officer was short and sarcastic with him, and said, “ ‘What do you want me to do? You want your pennies back?’ ” and also, “ ‘You’re free to go. There’s nothing I can do.’ ”
Foster said the incident made him feel like he was a criminal, when he was the one who called police in the first place.
“I was the victim in the case. I asked them to come out,” Foster said. “He was very rude. He didn’t even investigate. It’s hard to believe they have officers on the force like that. He told me I was wrong. If Officer Forsberg didn’t show up, it would’ve been swept under the rug.”
According to GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias, Officer Paul Forsberg was next to arrive on the scene. Forsberg went inside the store and reviewed the surveillance tape. Foster said Forsberg was helpful and open to listening about the situation. After police arrested Uddin, Foster told GPD Sgt. Robert Bartley that he planned to file a complaint, and he said Bartley told him he’d have a talk with Zawadzki.
“I put my attention to Forsberg,” Foster said. “He was helpful. And Bartley, he was the most helpful.”
Foster said he got a call from someone at GPD on Sunday who said the complaint against Zawadzki was justified, and that he may face discipline from the incident.
Tobias said the whole incident is an example of why the internal affairs department at GPD exists in the first place.
“This is exactly why we have an Internal Affairs division — to police ourselves,” Tobias said. “If Foster has filed a complaint, then we will complete any investigation and follow recommendations from the supervisors.”