Sexual battery charges dropped against former Jacksonville ‘Firefighter of the Year’

Charges have been dropped against a former Jacksonville “Firefighter of the Year” who was arrested and accused of sexual battery in 2022. The trial for Vincent Harper was set to begin on Monday.

Harper, 49, entered the public eye in 2019 after a horrific attack in an ambulance when he was one of two firefighters stabbed by a patient in the ambulance. The community rallied around him and the other more seriously injured firefighter from the incident and he was selected American Legion “Firefighter of the Year” in 2020.

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Fast forward to June 2023, outside UF Health Hospital, the same hospital he was near when he was stabbed in 2019.

According to an arrest report, a female patient at the hospital “ran away from UF Health’s fifth-floor Pavilion Building without being discharged” and found a man “in a white vehicle with tinted window yelled at (her) to ‘come here.’” She said she originally declined an offer of a ride but “the male then told (her) that he would not touch (her)” and she got into his vehicle, according to an arrest report.

MORE: Former Jacksonville ‘Firefighter of the Year’ accused of sexual battery

Then, inside the car, the report said they agreed to drive to the police memorial building, but “instead drove (her) to his residence and took (her) inside his bedroom.” Following that, the paragraph has been redacted by the police.

When the woman was eventually returned to the hospital she reported the sexual battery. The arrest report stated that Harper was identified in a photo spread and he was arrested.

Harper initially denied having sex with the woman, but then admitted they “did a little something.” Harper said he paid her $40 and then dropped her off near the Sulzbacher Center.

In January to prepare for the trial, Division Chief Wolfson spoke with the victim’s caseworker because she resides in a group home out-of-county. The caseworker said the victim is diagnosed with having an intellectual disability as well as suffering from depression, severe mood swings, behavioral issues at the group home, and several issues regarding her ability to tell the truth, according to the disposition.

The caseworker also said that she believed the victim testifying in a trial could be detrimental to the victim based on recent events.

Harper’s DNA was not found in the victim’s sexual assault kit and further investigation showed significant inconsistencies that resulted in the evidence being deemed inadmissible.

Wolfson said there was no reasonable probability of a conviction based on what he learned during the case.

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