Officer ‘would not stop texting’ teen from church, coerced her into sex acts, feds say

A former police officer is accused of coercing a teenager he met at church into sex acts after her mother found inappropriate text messages from him on her daughter’s phone, court documents show.

Josue Garriga III pursued a 17-year-old in September 2023, when he started texting and messaging her over the online platform WhatsApp while an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Florida, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

The girl told authorities “she tried multiple times to get Garriga III to leave her alone but he would not stop texting her” and reported she was “afraid (he) will come after her,” an affidavit says.

An investigation revealed Garriga visited the girl’s home on various nights and at a coffee shop in March, when prosecutors said he wouldn’t let her leave his vehicle until she performed oral sex on him and “put her hand down his pants.”

A federal criminal complaint charges Garriga, 34, of Jacksonville, with online enticement of a minor child to engage in criminal sexual activity, the U.S. attorney’s office announced in an April 19 news release.

Garriga’s defense attorney, M. Alan Ceballos, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on April 22.

The officer’s arrest

On March 8, the teen’s mother alerted the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to “concerning” messages she found on her daughter’s phone from Garriga’s phone number, according to a March 27 news release from the office.

In an interview with detectives, the girl said Garriga reached out to her over Instagram after she met him at church, and that he was a Jacksonville police officer, the affidavit in support of the federal criminal complaint says. Then they began messaging over WhatsApp, according to prosecutors.

The affidavit details several messages Garriga is accused of sending the teen in February and March, including:

“I miss ur face,” “When can we meet up again,” “When do you shower?,” “What is your hw for today?” “You ignoring me,” “Don’t forget to text me,” the affidavit states.

The teen told detectives Garriga “hit on her and would be inappropriate” and that they “hung out a few times and they just talked but that he would try to escalate things,” according to the affidavit.

She reported Garriga touched her inappropriately while inside his car, which he would park outside her house, multiple times and that he “would try to make her feel bad or get mad” if “she told him not to touch her,” the affidavit says.

Garriga is also accused of sending her nude photos and asking her for nude images, according to the sheriff’s office.

The teen told detectives she last met Garriga on March 6 at a Clay County business, which the affidavit states was the coffee shop, and described an “inappropriate physical interaction” inside his car, the sheriff’s office said.

When detectives interviewed Garriga, he said he knew the girl “pretty well” and that he worked with her at church, according to the affidavit.

He told detectives he asked her for photos but said “I would never ask for anything inappropriate,” the affidavit states.

Garriga is accused of admitting to meeting with the teen alone “to talk,” but said he never touched her besides hugging her, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states Garriga was “hesitant” when asked whether his wife knew of his “friendship” with the girl.

“Umm, I want to say kinda, yeah because, I mean she would see us at church working together,” Garriga responded, according to the affidavit.

After the separate interviews with the teen and Garriga, the sheriff’s office announced Garriga’s March 27 arrest on a slew of charges, including:

  • Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors

  • Lewd touching of certain minors

  • Traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity

  • Unlawful use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony

  • Transmission of harmful material to a minor

He was arrested by federal authorities on April 19, court records show.

Officer Allyn Kelly, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, told McClatchy News on April 22 that Garriga resigned from his job as police officer. He first joined the sheriff’s office in 2018 and was a part of its investigations division at the time of his resignation, according to a March 27 news release provided to McClatchy News.

The office’s Integrity Unit helped the Clay County Sheriff’s Office with taking Garriga into custody on March 27, when he was booked into the Clay County Jail on a $375,000 bond, according to authorities.

Sheriff T.K. Waters told WJXT that those who worked directly with Garriga were “completely surprised” and “disappointed.”

“We’re all disappointed,” Waters said, describing what happened as a “black eye” on his agency.

The case comes more than four years after Garriga was involved in the fatal shooting of a driver in Jacksonville in 2019, the Florida Times-Union reported. In 2020, the State Attorney’s Office decided he was “justified” in the incident, according to the newspaper.

If convicted on the federal charge against him, Garriga could be sentenced up to life in prison, prosecutors said.

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