“Stop the car!” a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy yelled.
“Stop the ….”
After that, the deputy’s body camera recorded a shocking sound. The sound of four rapid shots fired by the deputy’s pistol, the squealing tires, and the sound of a white Dodge Charger approaching a stop.
“Shots fired!” he shouted into his radio, as the car veered to the left through a traffic light.
The car filled with three people was hit by gunfire, injuring two of them.
Police had pursued the car to Leesburg’s mobile home park, where the suspects bailed out and went to the Dunkin’ on U.S. 27, where they were arrested.
What is the rationale behind the deputy firing several bullets? Is it legal?
Investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney’s office for the 5th Judicial Circuit are looking into this incident, as is standard procedure in law enforcement shootings.
It could be difficult for the sheriff’s office in this case due to their policy of not shooting at or from moving vehicles.
“Such action is prohibited because experience has shown that it is rarely effective and is extremely hazardous to innocent persons,” the department’s policy manual states.
“The only exception is to defend human life when there is no reasonable alternative, and the use of deadly force will not increase the danger to the deputy or others.”
According to the policy, a deputy must not “draw or display a firearm unless there is a concern for their own personal safety or the safety of others.”
LCSO Lt. John Herrell had shown interest in not wanting to comment since the case is being investigated by the FDLE.
However, He later said, after reviewing the video: “I think it is very, very clear he acted appropriately.”
Until the case is resolved, the name of the deputy cannot be released, Herrell added.
It is not unique to the Lake sheriff’s office that officers are not allowed to shoot at moving vehicles. There have even been lawsuits filed against some agencies for shooting at vehicles, including the sheriff’s office in Orange County.
10 deputies opened fire on a suspected car thief in an apartment complex in 2010, prompting a federal judge to rule the case saying: “The conduct at issue here is more akin to an execution than an attempt to arrest an unarmed suspect,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Around 100 rounds missed their target, and some landed in the Pine Hills apartments.
Torrey Breedlove’s family settled with the county in a lawsuit. The deputies involved in the shooting were cleared.
Two teens were also killed by a Brevard County deputy in a car in 2020.
Investigators had followed a suspect vehicle into a neighborhood while investigating a stolen car report. After approaching two teens, the deputy ordered them to stop. When the car continued forward, the deputy fired.
According to Florida Today, the county is being sued by family members for not pressing charges against the deputy.
During a shoplifting arrest outside a Target store on Wednesday, Osceola County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed one man and injured three others. Only a few details about the shooting have been released by the sheriff’s office, news outlets report.
One of the headlines in the May 21 issue of The Atlantic magazine read, “Why Do Police Keep Shooting Into Moving Cars?”
“There’s a big difference between whether they were justified — that’s one standard — and could have this been avoided? That’s a different standard. Those are two different questions,” Police Executive Research Forum executive director Chuck Wexler told the magazine.
Wexler told The Guardian in 2015: “If an officer puts himself in a position where they have no alternative to use deadly force, they will use deadly force. What you really want them to do is to think ‘I should not stand in front of this car. I should not put myself in a position to where I have no alternative.’”
Three men were suspected of buying gift cards at Walmart using stolen credit cards in the Lake County case. The men left the area in a white Dodge Charger that had a temporary tag.
“The deputy spotted the vehicle northbound on US 27/441 and was following it for maybe a half a mile or so,” Herrell explained.
“It then made somewhat of an abrupt turn into the Water Oaks subdivision, at which time the deputy pulled in behind it as it was quickly attempting a three-point turnabout due to the security bar being down. That’s when you see the deputy get out of his car, ordering it to stop. So, he was about to pull them over when they suddenly tried to elude him.”
At the last second, the driver of the car veered left after turning around a short distance from where the deputy was standing.
Bad things happen when criminals attempt to flee or use a 4,000-pound machine as a weapon, police are forced to make split-second decisions.
When Jeffrey Gilbert, 20, was charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer, he was charged with using and driving a car as a weapon while three men were in the Charger and were not armed.
Police departments also do not like pursuits, citing the danger they pose to other drivers, but Gilbert had been charged with a violent felony, so officials say the chase was justified.
The rear seat passenger, Calvin Williams, 20, and front-seat passenger, Pierre D’Haiti, 20, were all arrested for possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana.
Dunkin’ restrooms were searched by police and discovered to contain drugs and related items.
Gilbert and D’Haiti have since been charged with theft of credit.
They both face charges of criminal use of identification, fraudulent use of a credit card and petty theft from the alleged incident at Walmart.
They have been discharged from the hospital. However, it is unclear who was injured. Nevertheless, the three have been taken into custody.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation is underway, as is a standard operating procedure, which has placed the deputy on administrative leave.