March 10--A 49-year-old woman was shot to death by a deputy this morning in the parking lot of the Clay County sheriff's substation off Blanding Boulevard in what deputies characterized as an apparent "suicide by cop."
Sheriff's Office Col. Craig Aldrich said two deputies were returning to the substation in a patrol car about 6 a.m. when a woman walking in the parking lot pointed what appeared to be a handgun at the deputies. One of the deputies got out of the patrol car and confronted the woman, who was yelling at him. Aldrich would not detail what the woman said, but specified it did appear to be a "suicide-by-cop" situation.
"They saw what was going on and issued demands for her to put the firearm down and she refused," Aldrich said, so the deputy fired multiple times, killing the woman.
The woman was identified as Joann Beardsley of Springer Place in Jacksonville. Aldrich said she had no criminal record and it's not clear what she was doing in front of the locked substation or how she got there.
Some of the last Facebook posts for a Joann Beardsley whose friends and family sent messages of rest in peace were that she was going out for some drinks and has had a lot on her mind.
About midnight Friday she posts this is "a very rare occasion I want some company. Don't bother tomorrow, I won't need it."
Four minutes later she said she thinks she'll head on up to Roadhouse bar and grill (which is a short distance from the Sheriff's Office substation).
At 1:53 a.m. Saturday, her final post reads, "I'd rather sleep in the parking lot than get a dui."
Several posts follow hours later messaging how she was a free and loving spirit and will be missed.
The deputy who shot her was 33-year-old Chris Ruby, a nine-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office. He also is a training officer and a member of the agency's SWAT team. Aldrich said he and J.D. Wilson, the other deputy in the patrol unit, were finishing their shifts and preparing to transfer to their personal vehicles to go home.
Wilson, who was just hired by the Sheriff's Office about a month ago, did not discharge his firearm.
The investigation has been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. An FDLE crime scene investigation vehicle was on the scene as of 10 a.m.
Aldrich said investigators are still trying to determine if the gun held by the woman was a real firearm.
He said it appeared to be a revolver. She did not fire a shot, Aldrich said.
Aldrich said Clay officials did not examine the gun because it is considered evidence and can only be examined by the FDLE investigators.
Aldrich said Ruby fired several times, but did not have an exact number. The woman was shot "mostly in the torso."
She was transported to Orange Park Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
Times-Union Assistant Metro Editor Scott Butler contributed to this article.