A suspected prescription-drug dealer who was shot to death by Pasco County sheriff’s detectives was unarmed when the detectives opened fire, Sheriff Chris Nocco said Wednesday afternoon, but he defended the actions of his officers.
Nocco said the detectives were in a situation where they feared for their lives and the life of another undercover detective who had just conducted a drug deal with the suspect, Jerry Brown, 41, of Lakeland.
“You have a millisecond to make a decision,” the sheriff said at a press conference.
Nocco said investigators searched for a gun but did not find one after Brown was shot Tuesday outside Big Ben Tires where he worked in Zephyrhills.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office and the sheriff’s office’s internal affairs division are investigating the shooting, which happened about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday after detectives began moving in to arrest Brown on a signal from the detective who had just made the deal with Brown.
Brown had a violent history and had served time for armed robbery, Nocco said. He was currently on probation for selling and possessing drugs, the sheriff said.
The detectives were aware of Brown’s history as they approached him, Nocco said. Although they were undercover detectives, they all were in clearly marked sheriff’s uniforms as they swooped in to make the arrest.
Brown didn’t comply with the detectives’ orders to show his hands, which caused them to fear he was up to something, the sheriff said.
“When we said, ‘Show us your hands,’ he should have shown us his hands,” Nocco said. “He didn’t.”
Two detectives fired their weapons, he said. After the shooting, the detectives rendered aid to Brown and an ambulance took him to a hospital, but he died, the sheriff said.
The sheriff’s office is providing assistance to the detectives because of concerns about post-traumatic stress, Nocco said.
“We asked our chaplains to come out because it’s critical, because these individuals had to make that life or death situation,” he said.
Nocco said the shooting is something that will live with the detectives.
“Nobody ever goes into these buy busts thinking they are going to have to shoot somebody,” he said. “That’s not the intention.”