Fired Williamson County deputy now accused of punching child

Crime

An off-duty Williamson County deputy allegedly attacked a 12-year-old girl at a barbecue restaurant before Austin police arrested him on charges of public intoxication in early March.

Deputy Jack Danford, 42, was drinking with family on the patio area of the Oakwood BBQ restaurant March 3 around 7:43 p.m., according to an affidavit.

Russell Cope was delivering wood to the restaurant around the same time — his girlfriend and her 12-year-old daughter who has autism, were also there. Cope says he brought his puppy and let it run around on the patio. 

Witnesses said Danford had picked up the dog and pet it, then put it down. When the girl came over to play with the dog, Danford “quickly jumped up from his seat and tackled the Victim,” an affidavit said, adding that he punched her in the face repeatedly. Witnesses tried to pull him off her, but it didn’t work — that’s when Cope says he punched Danford in the face twice but it didn’t phase him.

“I stepped back and kicked him in the head with my (steel-toed) boot and knocked him out,” said Cope.

The girl was taken to the hospital for treatment of abrasions, bruises and a pulled muscle. She told police “she thought she was going to die,” according to an affidavit. She said she did not know Danford.

Cope says the girl is healing physically, but it’s the emotional trauma that is stuck with her. He says when they all go out to eat, the girl won’t get food or go to the restroom by herself because she’s scared. 

Jack Danford (Austin Police Department Photo)

A witness said Danford had a few beers when he was at the restaurant and had also told her he’d been “drinking all day,” according to the affidavit. Officers who arrived on scene reported smelling a “strong odor of an alcoholic beverage” coming from Danford, who told them he had been drugged, according to the affidavit. 

Officers handcuffed him, and as one of them pulled his wallet out of his pocket, Danford grabbed his wrist and wouldn’t let go. The two fell to the ground, and one officer punched Danford to get him to let go. He eventually did after another officer used a baton. Both reported Danford was not compliant.

Danford faces a third-degree injury to a child charge, in addition to public intoxication and resisting arrest. His bond on that charge was $75,000 and he cannot have a firearm or contact children. Danford has worked for the sheriff’s office since 2005 and was fired following the March 3 incident.

Sheriff Robert Chody said he holds his deputies accountable and apologized on Twitter for Danford’s actions, adding “WilCo demands professionalism.”

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