Crime

Sheriff says deputies did their job as trained in Stock Island shootout, dismisses suspect's claim that cops shot first

This is a screen shot from video from the shootout.
This is a screen shot from video from the shootout.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay on Friday said his deputies did exactly what they were trained to do during an Oct. 24 shootout with a robbery suspect who claims police shot first.

Ramsay says dashcam video from two police cruisers that was released Friday morning shows the suspect, Timothy Thomas, 25, shot first.

Thomas remained in the Stock Island jail Friday with no bond allowed. Charges against him are attempted murder of a police officer, four felony counts of possessing a weapon as a convicted felon, one felony count of property damage of more than $1,000, one felony count of burglary and two misdemeanor counts of altering a firearm serial number.

Thomas shot Deputy Josh Gordon in the chest near 3rd Avenue and Sunshine Street on Stock Island during the shootout. Gordon was saved by his bullet-proof vest. Thomas was caught a day later at a vacant home at 1711 Von Phister St. in Key West.

"This career criminal jumped out and fired and shot a police officer," Ramsay said. "We want to try to dispel any erroneous information."

The two dashcam videos, one from Gordon's car and the other from Deputy David Lariz's cruiser, show the moments leading up to the dangerous exchange of gunfire, and the exchange itself.

In Gordon's video, a Sheriff's Office car stops just short of Thomas' black Mustang before a deputy shouts "let me see your hands!" That's when the gunfire between the two started.

Thomas then drives off in his Mustang as police -- including Gordon, who was just struck -- continue to fire.

Lariz's video shows Gordon shooting at Thomas while on the ground. The video shows that even after being shot in the chest, Gordon retrieved a rifle from his trunk. A bit later, he staggers and gets help from a fellow deputy and goes back to the trunk again.

"The guys' actions were heroic," Ramsay said. "I think the video makes it crystal clear how dangerous the job is."

According to the report, deputies fired at Thomas in self-defense. Ramsay said it's "just what the officers indicated took place."

Thomas was shot in the back and a shoulder.

Thomas eventually fled his vehicle on Second Avenue before he attempted to carjack someone at Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street before running away. Deputy Boyd Williams wrote that Thomas appeared to have been picked up by someone.

Deputies continued to search the area on foot but could not find Thomas. Police later received a tip Thomas might be on Big Coppitt Key around Barcelona Drive and Del Mar Boulevard. An all-night search, which included police dogs, helicopters and boats, ended at 7 a.m. Oct. 25 without Thomas in custody. He surrendered hours later when surrounded by law enforcement.

Ramsay said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is doing an "unbiased, objective review" of the shootout.

FDLE spokeswoman Molly Best declined comment since the investigation is active.

Police were on the lookout for Thomas because he was the suspect in an Oct. 5 armed robbery of an attorney near Key West High School at Flagler Avenue. The school was locked down while police searched for him but he wasn't found.

Shortly after Thomas' arrest, David Dwanne Gray, 27, his cousin, was arrested at the Von Phister house. He faces felony charges including cocaine possession, marijuana possession and drug trafficking. He was expected to be questioned in connection with Thomas' arrest.

Thomas is scheduled for arraignment in front of Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones at 8:45 a.m. Nov. 12.

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