by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….
[Note: This article was written and published prior to the Sheriff’s release of the dashcam video. You will find an update at the end of the article including both Deputy Gordon and Deputy Lariz’ dashcam video excerpts as posted by the MCSO on youtube this morning.]
It was about 9:45 pm on Stock Island. Tony Alfonso’s kids were playing in the front yard. “We were having a sweet sixteen party for my daughter,” says Tony. In a few minutes their home would be riddled with bullets.
Bad boy Timothy Thomas, driving his stolen Ford Mustang at full speed, was trying to shake off Monroe County Sheriff Deputies David Lariz and Josh Gordon.
“We heard the police sirens and the cars racing this way,” says Tony, “then the screeching of the brakes and we all thought: the car is going to crash right through the fence and strike the house!” It didn’t. It stopped just against the chain link fence.
What happened next is all at once stupefying, heroic, and contentious. A gun battle erupted between Thomas and the deputies. In Tony’s surveillance video, his family is seen scrambling for cover under a hail of bullets. Slugs hit the roof, the stairs, the walls. As Thomas manages to escape, Deputy Gordon pulls out an AR 15, which we are told can pierce through walls, and begins firing with the
war rifle. (The term “war rifle” proved disturbing to some readers who thought it too “aggressive” so it has been stricken…)
According to the police report, Deputy Gordon was shot in the chest; all of the cars were riddled with bullets. Each deputy shot 13 rounds and Gordon shot anywhere between 2 to 5 rounds with the AR 15. Thomas fired at least four times. All claim self defense.
How the shootout began is unclear. According to Deputy Gordon, Thomas “initially complied” but “then quickly ducked back into his vehicle, drew a handgun and fired several shots (…) while moving away [from gunfire] I [Gordon] felt the impact of the suspect’s gunfire strike me in the center of my chest.” The investigator found “what appeared to be a bullet hole near the center of the trauma plate” [of the ballistic armor vest.]
According to Thomas however, he’d fired in self defense only after the deputies began shooting. Thomas suffered gunshot wounds to the back and shoulder. He would surrender the next day after a standoff with KWPD.
Obviously Mr. Thomas’ credibility is quite low. [He’s charged with the October 5th armed robbery of a 69 year-old man at a home near Key West High School, he recently spent nearly three years in prison for a 2012 robbery conviction, and he was allegedly driving a stolen yellow Mustang that had been spray painted black.] Yet it would be interesting to review close-up video recordings of the incident.
Interestingly enough, though Sheriff Ramsay offered a hundred or so body cameras to KWPD in the wake of the Charles Eimers debacle, he has yet to equip his own deputies with them. In Key West, we’ve found that officers are using their body cameras and the recordings have already proven to be a remarkable tool, dispelling many claims of police brutality.
The controversy over who fired first on Stock Island on October 24th may linger. It doesn’t help that one of the deputies involved, Deputy Lariz, was exposed in a recent documentary [The White, the Black, the Blue and His Dog] in a clear pattern of racial profiling. [Thomas is Black.]
Tony Alfonso admires the courage of the officers, but he told The Blue Paper that he intends to file a complaint with the Sheriff about the enormous risk his family was exposed to. “No one is hurt, but only because of some miracle,” said Tony, “All the bullets came from the officers across the street. They could have hit my wife, my daughter, my mother, my dogs.” He shows us the many bullet holes left in the walls of his house.
The Sheriff Department told The Blue Paper they are currently working on getting their deputies equipped with body cameras.
Read the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department incident report. Deputy Gordon’s report on the 10/24/15 incident [dated 11/4/2015] was released yesterday 11/5/2015. Deputy Lariz’ report has not yet been provided.
After answering our public records requests with heavily redacted reports and refusing to release the video to The Blue Paper, the Sheriff released the dashcam videos late yesterday to The Citizen (while continuing to withhold it from The Blue Paper despite an official pending public records request and with full knowledge that we were working on a story about the shootout.) MCSO made it public only this morning, Friday, an hour after we published our article, via the MCSO blog announcing that the video had been published on youtube and did not directly inform us of its release.
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