An FBI agent checking out a complaint about police corruption in rural northwest Florida ended up handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car after running into deputies who doubted his true identity.
The ordeal unfolded after Special Agent Alexis Hatten traveled from Panama City to the small town of Carrabelle to ask about a citation the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office gave to a prominent businesswoman but later pulled back from the courthouse.
It escalated into a roadside confrontation — all caught on bodycam video — between Hatten and the deputies. During the six minutes Hatten spent locked in the cruiser, he cried out for cool air and demanded to be released.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” the veteran FBI agent said. “You think this is funny, but it won’t be funny after today.”
Hatten hastily scheduled an interview with Deputy Rolf Gordon to talk about the ticket, which he’d issued a few weeks earlier. But the conversation went sideways after Gordon began to suspect Hatten wasn’t really a federal agent.
The agent’s vehicle tags didn’t trace back to the government agency deputies expected. After a check of his driver’s license, his name popped up on a terrorist watch list, according to bodycam footage and Sheriff A.J. Smith in a subsequent interview.
The story, which has been making rounds in Franklin County political circles, came to light after the Tallahassee Democrat obtained the body cam footage, police reports and other documents through a public records request.The records exposed normally secretive movements of the FBI, whose recent public corruption investigations in North Florida have led to numerous guilty pleas from government officials, including former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
They also highlighted the FBI’s interest in the Sheriff’s Office, though it’s unclear whether that goes beyond a mere traffic ticket. Smith, who’s running for a second term, said his opponents likely complained to the FBI to score political points in an election year.
“They must have told them there’s some kind of corruption or the sheriff is corrupt,” he said. “That’s all I can figure. It’s certainly not true.”
Smith said he’s not aware of any broader federal probe involving his office. The FBI was characteristically tight-lipped, saying it could neither confirm nor deny an investigation.
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