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Pasco Tribune

Officers justified in shooting Army vet, state attorney says

From staff reports
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:42 PM
DADE CITY -

Pinellas/Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe has ruled that three Pasco SWAT officers were justified in the April 2 fatal shooting of Army veteran Justin Plaza outside his Dade City home.

Sheriff's Cpl. Marc Erickson, Deputy Robert Wilkins and New Port Richey officer Aaron Eck fired their weapons after Plaza, 23, raised and pointed a gun in their direction.

The shooting took place after Plaza, who served two tours in Afghanistan before being honorably discharged from the Army, barricaded himself inside his home for eight hours. During the standoff, Plaza came outside, refused an order to put down his weapon and pointed his gun at deputies, the sheriff's office reported.

"He put our deputies and members at harm's way, so at that time we had no other choice," Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

It was Plaza's second altercation with police in a week. On March 25, Dade City Police responded to calls from several of Plaza's neighbors, who reported hearing gunshots in their neighborhood.

One woman said she saw Plaza in his backyard shooting his gun. Officers found 12 shell casings scattered in Plaza's backyard. Plaza admitted what he had done when police arrived and was hostile and irate toward the officers, the Dade City police report said. Plaza said he had a right to shoot on his own property, even in a residential neighborhood.

Plaza put his gun on the ground when officers told him to do so, but he screamed profanities at them. He told police he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and claimed that "people were after him." The officers took Plaza to Pasco Regional Medical Center for a psychological evaluation.

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