Diamonds Ford, a 29-year-old mother, wife and business owner, is being charged with her first felony. The morning of Sept. 28, 2020, set off a chain of events that would leave her and her then fiancé now husband Anthony Gantt in jail facing charges of attempted murder and facing life in prison. Though the two are now out on bond, family and activists are still calling for their charges to be dropped.
The Jacksonville, Fla. couple went to bed at about 4 a.m. Four hours later, Ms. Ford woke up to the sound of glass from her window breaking.
“The first time I heard it, I thought I was dreaming,” Ms. Ford recounted to The Final Call. “The second time I heard it, I instantly got up. Like what the hell is going on here?”
She woke her fiancé up, told him to grab her gun and shot six times in the direction of the window. Her fiancé told her to run to the bathroom. They got in the tub, and she called 911.
“I think that you have to understand that she is a permitted gun owner. She lives in a high-crime area,” her lawyer, Stephen Kelly, told The Final Call.
He said there had been a number of home invasions and shootings in the area. “When you wake up at 8:00 in the morning hearing glass breaking in your home and you live a crime-free life, you would be under the assumption that someone is breaking into your home, and they come in with intentions of causing you bodily harm. Everyone has the right and ability to protect their castle in the state of Florida, and that is exactly what she did,” he said.
“She then retreated to the bathroom, and she called 911. A lot of times in these cases they will say, ‘Well, why didn’t she call the cops?’ Well, she did.”
During the 911 dispatch call obtained by the press, Ms. Ford asks the dispatcher to “send somebody” because “someone is shooting.” Then, when the people outside identify themselves as being from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, Ms. Ford says with surprise, “Wait, that’s the sheriff’s office?”
“You can hear in the background on the 911 call where me and my fiancé are like, we are about to die. I don’t know what else to do at this point. I called 911. I don’t know what else to do,” she expressed.
After police identified themselves, she walked out and opened the door. She complied with commands to put the phone down and to put her hands up.
“I don’t know how my fiancé ends up around me, because he was right behind me. But he ends up in front of me. He has his hands up. They tell him to get down. He ends up getting down and laying on the ground, but then they tell him to get back up, walk towards them. As they do that, next thing I remember seeing with my one little eye is the fact that they jumped on him and beat him,” she said. “It’s like, it’s like watching somebody beat the love of your life and you can’t do anything about it. You can’t do anything.”
Police were looking for a roommate that was staying with them at the time, Ms. Ford said. When she shot through the window, she injured a SWAT officer who was part of a team executing a high-risk search warrant for suspected drug trafficking. According to the arrest report, there were almost 30 DEA and SWAT officers at the home, and none wore body cameras. The officer who was shot was protected via a bulletproof vest and is still alive.
Bodycam footage from an officer who arrived late on the scene shows the couple being taken into custody and was released in March. Atty. Kelly told The Final Call that he hopes to paint the entire picture of what took place that day to State’s Attorney Melissa Nelson. He obtained footage from civilians that will help document the events.
An investigation was launched, which resulted in Ms. Ford and Mr. Gantt being taken to jail. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. While she was in jail, Ms. Ford stayed under a 23-hour lockdown a period of time.
“She was locked up in solitary for 23 hours a day, seven days a week. She was only out for an hour a day every day. And this is somebody who has no criminal history. She’s a mother,” said Danielle Chanzes, a Gainesville-based community organizer who works with Florida Prisoner Solidarity and Dignity Power, to The Final Call.
Ms. Chanzes heard about the case in December. She contacted Ms. Ford’s cousin, Charles Thomas, who was running a “Justice for Diamonds Ford” Facebook page. Through organizing and networking efforts, the organizations Dignity Power, the National Bail Fund Network and the Minnesota Freedom Fund raised over $530,000 to get Ms. Ford out of jail in February. Over $350,000 was raised for Anthony Gantt, and he returned home in early April. The couple married in early May.
Atty. Kelly said a bond of $500,000 or more isn’t unreasonable for a charge of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, but he said it is unreasonable considering the circumstances of Ms. Ford’s case: a Black mother with no prior criminal history who was awakened to her window breaking and who called 911 saying she believed an intruder was in her room.
When Ms. Ford returned home from jail, she realized she had nothing. Everything in her home was gone, including paperwork and social security documents. The magical moment, she said, was coming home to her daughter.
“That was the hardest part about this entire situation is just being away from my daughter. How do I explain this to her?” she questioned. Her daughter turned 12 while she and Mr. Gantt were incarcerated.
Her daughter wasn’t present on the day of the incident. They had dropped her off at her godmother’s house and were planning to pick her up in the morning.
“Honestly, God made everything happen for a reason, because luckily she was not there. My first thought if my daughter was home would have been to run out of my room and run to hers. I thought about this process the entire time I was incarcerated,” Ms. Ford said.
“If I would have ran out of my room, ran through the living room, there’s windows right there. They would have seen me running. I could have easily just been shot and that would have just been it. So, I’m thankful that she wasn’t there so that I could live to tell this story.”
Atty. Kelly said it’s shameful that the incident happened after the Breonna Taylor case. Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old EMT worker from Louisville, Ky., who was killed in her apartment after police forced themselves in with a no-knock warrant.
The lawyer has depositions scheduled for October 20-21 and plans on interviewing the SWAT officers. Atty. Kelly hopes that the charges against Ms. Ford are dropped, but if not, they will prepare for trial.
“If we absolutely have to, we’re ready and willing to try this in front of a jury, hopefully, of her peers. Nevertheless, at this point, I want everyone to know, and I want it to be clear what justice is,” he said. “This lady should not have to stand trial. These charges should be dropped. That’s what justice looks like, with these charges being dropped, and justice looks like a policy requiring audio and video body camera footage when you’re entering the residence of a private citizen executing a search warrant.”
Ms. Chanzes said it feels like everybody takes to the streets when someone is dead and hash tagged, but that there’s injustices happening to people who are alive. She questioned how people have the right to bear arms and how Florida says you can stand your ground and protect you and your property but make an exception for the police, even when they don’t announce they’re the police. Florida banned no-knock warrants, but the Gainesville activists said there needs to be a true termination and outlawing of the policy and practice.
“Florida is one of two states that technically already doesn’t have no-knock warrants, but just as everything and like was the case with Diamonds and Anthony, the powers that be, they find a way to play the system because a no-knock warrant still got executed against them,” she said.
Though no-knock warrants were banned in Florida there are some exceptions including:
- The person inside the home already knows police are there with a warrant;
- Police reasonably believe the person inside is in immediate danger of bodily harm;
- If danger to the officer would be increased by knocking;
- If people inside are engaged in activities leading police to believe they’re attempting to escape or destroy evidence.
According to the Atlanta Black Star, an arrest report says that the task force that raided Ms. Ford and Mr. Gantt’s home was led there by a confidential informant’s tip that cocaine was stashed in the home by a family member. Deputies found a scale and a jar filled with 124.7 grams of marijuana in one of the three bedrooms, according to the report. Atty. Kelly told the publication it was the sleeping quarters of a roommate who had just moved in.
Ms. Ford and Mr. Gantt are being charged with attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and armed possession of marijuana with intent to sell, distribute or manufacture.
Police have said they announced their presence over a loudspeaker. According to Florida laws, when executing a search warrant, if officers have been denied entry to a home after due notice, they are allowed to break down a door or shatter windows. Based on the state’s Supreme Court mandates, they must also knock and announce themselves and give residents reasonable opportunity to respond.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Chris M. Brown told the Florida Times-Union that officers are required to announce their presence, display their badges and insignia that identify them as law enforcement, and advise they have a search warrant for the premises.
Ms. Ford said because of the case, she and Mr. Gantt can’t get jobs and that they’re taking everything day by day. She is one of the lead campaign members for her case, works with Black Expo Tours and has a personal business, DimeSerenity.
“Going to jail has changed me. I’m an emotional wreck now. I never used to cry. I seem to overthink things, feel like I’m going in circles. I’ve never been this disorganized,” she said.
She said she wants people to understand what she went through and what she’s still facing. “I want them to feel that. I don’t want them to just see it, I want them to feel it,” she said.
Criminal defense attorney Ann Finnell is representing Mr. Gantt. “The first day she talked to me, she was like ‘well why are you being charged’? And I was like that’s a good question,” Mr. Gantt, told The Final Call.
He explained that he is being charged for being present, whether intentionally or unintentionally, based on Florida law. “If I go unintentionally on a robbery, I’ll get charged as well even though I didn’t go intentionally,” he said. “I was there, and I was a part of it, even though it was unintentional, so that makes you an accessory.”
He said the situation is taking a toll on him, especially financially. Loud noises trigger him, he has paranoia, and he worries about his daughter being treated differently. He said his life has been put on hold, as he wanted to go to school for the merchant marines. His biggest dream was to become a longshoreman and move to California.
“I didn’t do anything. I just woke up,” he expressed. “It’s affected my life tremendously, especially recently. Like trying to find employment. It’s tough, man. Jobs. Some schools have stipulations. It’s pretty tough. And then I found a job and then they had to let me go due to the situation at hand and you can’t have those types of pending charges.”
Over the years, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has talked about America’s prison-industrial complex and what the system does to young Black people.
“When they come out on the streets as a ‘felon,’ they can’t even get a job. Nor do you want to train them to work and get a decent living wage on the outside; but you put them in prison, under schemes, so that you can misuse them, and use them for slave labor!” he said in Part 23 of his 2013 lecture series “The Time and What Must Be Done.”
“This is why the calamities are increasing on America! This is the evil that you plan against a people that God wants to deliver from your hands!”
To support Diamonds Ford and Anthony Gantt, visit Justice for Diamonds and Anthony on Facebook and Instagram.