In December 2011, Robert Donson was shot in the stomach by a Pensacola Police officer, and subsequently charged with possession of a gun, resisting arrest and assault on an officer. While still awaiting his date in federal court, the 26-year-old was found not guilty this month on the state assault charge, with the firearm and resist charges resulting in a hung jury.
Donson was shot in the parking lot of Tom Ann Buddy’s on Cervantes Street two days before Christmas. According to the police report, he was approached by Sgt. John Austin, who had arrived on scene along with several other officers; they drove an unmarked van and wore masks.
Austin, who wrote the report, recounted that Donson consented to a search. He described how the man began “violently thrashing about” after what was thought to be a gun was felt in his coat pocket.
The parking lot scuffle came to involve another officer, Shawn Thompson. The scuffle ended when Thompson shot Donson. His actions later were determined to be justified.
“Detective Thompson placed the muzzle of his duty pistol on Donson’s torso and fired one round,” Austin wrote in the report. “Donson immediately stopped fighting with me.”
According to the report, the officer retrieved the gun and it was “later found to be fully loaded with a round in the chamber.”
Witnesses spoken to at the scene a week after the incident expressed doubts about the gun—“they didn’t find no gun that night … damn right, I think they planted it on him”—and said they thought Donson probably feared the masked men searching him.
“He’s trying to shake loose, thinking he’s gonna rob him,” said a man who identified himself only as Lee.
Following surgery, a number of charges were levied against Donson. He faced three charges in state court—resisting arrest, assault on an officer and carrying a concealed firearm—as well as an additional firearm charge—possession of a gun by a convicted felon—in federal court.
On Feb. 14, an Escambia County circuit court jury delivered a not guilty verdict on the assault charge. A handwritten note on a piece of lined notebook paper relayed the jury’s message concerning the other two counts: “Hopelessly Hung.”
Donson heads to federal court March 18.