Video released Thursday from Volusia deputies’ body cameras and the Sheriff’s Office helicopter shows the last moments for Gregory Howe, who was killed after firing a shot at deputies.
While Howe’s weapon isn’t visible in the video, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the 37-year-old was still sitting in his pickup when he leveled and fired a Kel-Tec KSG tactical shotgun at deputies Tuesday afternoon.
Four deputies opened fire, unloading 82 shots and striking Howe 14 times, Chitwood said.
Those deputies — identified Wednesday as Sgt. John McDonald, 52; detective Shawn Adkins, 29; detective John Frazzini, 50; and deputy Graeme Foster, 30 — were uninjured and have been placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates as is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
Also released Thursday morning was a letter from Brodie Hughes, president of the union of Volusia County deputies, to Jason Umberger, police chief in DeLand.
In the letter, Hughes criticizes Umberger for holding Wednesday afternoon “an appalling press conference attempting to distance the DeLand Police Department from yesterday’s shooting involving our deputies.”
Howe’s first contact with law enforcement on Tuesday occurred when a DeLand officer pulled him over about 2:45 p.m. for not wearing a seat belt, Umberger said.
During the press conference held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at DeLand police headquarters, Umberger said he wanted to make it clear that his officers didn’t pursue Howe at any point after Howe drove off from the traffic stop, ignoring the DeLand officer’s commands.
In a phone interview Thursday, Chitwood said he didn’t understand why Umberger was injecting himself into the situation when Chitwood said during Tuesday’s press conference that it was the sheriff’s helicopter and deputies that followed Howe.
“I’m asked the question for the third time and I said ‘we joined the pursuit,’ and that’s what got them all fired up for whatever reason,” Chitwood said Thursday.
Hughes, in his letter to Umberger, which was posted on the union’s and sheriff’s Facebook pages, said Howe’s choices led to his “untimely death.”
“The moment he made the decision to escalate his law enforcement encounter by fleeing, brandished a semi-automatic rifle, and took aim at our deputies, the outcome was decided,” Hughes wrote. “Remember, we don’t get paid to lose!”
Hughes also criticized Umberger for a “lack of empathy shown toward our deputies as they cope with the physical and emotional tolls of using deadly force.”
Chitwood said he agreed with Hughes’ suggestion that Umberger needs to apologize.
Hughes “has the right to defend his deputies as he sees fit, and I don’t take any umbrage to what he’s saying,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood said Thursday that Umberger hasn’t reached out to him regarding the incident involving Howe.
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon with Umberger, the DeLand chief said he did attempt to reach the sheriff on Thursday.
“I’m grateful that our officers and the deputies involved in this incident are safe. That’s what I wanted to convey,” Umberger said. “I don’t have an issue with Sheriff Chitwood, I never did. I was just trying to do what was best for our police department and our city.”
Umberger also said he wanted to clarify that his officers followed policy and didn’t pursue someone when it wasn’t called for, such as the case of Marlon Brown, who was ran over and killed by a DeLand officer in 2013.
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