Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Deputy cleared in August shooting of Moon Lake man

NEW PORT RICHEY — After a month of investigation in the shooting death of Robert Kaminski, the deputy who fired the fatal shot was cleared to return to duty by the State Attorney's Office.

The Sept. 6 report, which absolves Pasco sheriff's Deputy Ben Birge of any wrongdoing, lists more details of the incident.

On Aug. 9 around 8 p.m., Kaminski was on his way home to Moon Lake and called his wife, Lonnie, and told her he would kill her if she was still there when he arrived, the report states.

She called 911 and Deputy Zachary Barr responded to the home at 9518 Marley Ave. The deputy was outside waiting when Kaminski, 62, pulled up and walked toward the home with a gun in hand.

The deputy tried to stop him, but Kaminski turned the gun on him. There was a click, but the gun jammed. The deputy — on the job for only two weeks — almost fired his own weapon, but Lonnie and her mother were at the door, in the line of fire.

Kaminski ducked inside. The women made it out unharmed.

Deputies called Kaminski's phone to negotiate, but he hung up on them at least five times.

During the standoff, deputies were in the process of bringing in SWAT personnel and pulling out the first responders. At 11:35 p.m., Kaminski walked out his back door with an AK-47 rifle in his hands and a 9mm handgun tucked in his waistband — his blood-alcohol level at 0.107 percent. He sneaked around the side of his home and opened fire at deputies behind a patrol car, firing at least five times. He also hit a window of a nearby house, the report states.

Deputies responded with 36 rounds of fire. Two hit Kaminski, one in his neck. Testimony and a medical examiner's report pinpointed Birge as the deputy who delivered the fatal shot.

The State Attorney's Office investigation concluded that Kaminski was attempting "murder with a firearm upon" one of the deputies and that the shooting was a justifiable homicide.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Melanie Snow confirmed that after being placed on administrative leave during the investigation, Birge has returned to his post as a patrol deputy.

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