Hillsborough deputy shoots, kills 'career criminal'

BRANDON — A deputy shot and killed a "career criminal" Tuesday after the man wrestled a gun away from a detective trying to arrest him, said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.

Bobby Earl Driggers, 50, of Seffner was wanted on arrest warrants for grand theft auto and uttering a forged instrument, the sheriff said.

He was on a list of prolific offenders the Sheriff's Office was looking for — Gee called him a "50-year career criminal."

Tuesday afternoon, Driggers was spotted outside a mobile home at 904 W Wheeler Road in Brandon, blocks from where he lived in Seffner.

The Sheriff's Office released this account of what happened:

Sheriff's Detective Jack Thompson saw Driggers standing next to a red Jeep Cherokee in front of the home about 1:15 p.m. Thompson called for backup, then approached Driggers.

The men were talking when Driggers lunged at Thompson, ripping off the detective's .40-caliber Glock handgun and its holster. A "violent struggle" ensued, the Sheriff's Office said.

The men tumbled into the back seat of the Jeep. Driggers was trying to get the gun out of the holster, and Thompson was fighting to stop him, when at 1:17 p.m. backup arrived — Deputy Manny Gonzalez.

"Shoot him, he has my gun," Thompson shouted.

Gonzalez obliged, firing one shot that hit Driggers in the upper body, the Sheriff's Office said.

Driggers was transported to Tampa General Hospital and died a short time after arriving.

Neither Gonzalez nor Thompson were injured. Both will be placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by the Sheriff's Office and the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

Gonzalez, 37, is a 16-year veteran. Thompson, 46, is an 18-year veteran who has been involved in two previous police shootings, one of them fatal.

Driggers has an extensive criminal record, according to the Sheriff's Office, and served time for violent crimes in other states.

His Florida criminal past dates to 1981 and includes eight felony convictions and six stints in prison, according to records, for crimes such as armed robbery, aggravated assault with a weapon, burglary and grand theft auto.

Florida records from 1999 show he was to be extradited to Kentucky to face robbery and attempted murder charges and to Texas to face a robbery charge. The status of those cases could not be determined Tuesday.

Driggers did not live at the address where he was found Tuesday, but the home has been a source of frustration for some.

"There's trash in the yard and people screaming and music blaring," said neighbor Donna Denhoff. "There's always a ruckus going on."

Before taking Thompson's gun, Driggers told him people at that residence had asked him to leave, though it was unclear why.

Thompson, who was not the shooter Tuesday, was involved in two shootings previously.

In 1999, he shot and killed an unarmed motorist mistaken for a violent felon who had led deputies on a chase. The man tried to ram patrol cars with his car when Thompson fired. Thompson was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Three months earlier, he fired at — but missed — a fleeing motorist he said had rammed his patrol car. The motorist was later stopped by other deputies.

Staff writer Laura C. Morel and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Hillsborough deputy shoots, kills 'career criminal' 05/14/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 1:19am]

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