TAMPA — A Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy was shot in the neck late Tuesday night while answering a 911 call at a Town 'n Country apartment complex, the Sheriff's Office said.
Miguel Galarza, 35, a Hillsborough deputy since January 2007, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital.
Sheriff David Gee said early Wednesday he had been told the bullet went in one side of the deputy's neck and out the other without causing serious damage to the spine.
"Usually, that's a fatal injury, but we're hearing good news," Gee said.
Sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway initially said the deputy suffered life-threatening injuries and was headed to surgery. Gee reined in that assessment. He said he expects Galarza to recover but cautioned that his condition could change.
The deputy was on a call about 11:15 p.m. at Country Square Apartments, a collection of duplexes in a neighborhood north of Waters Avenue, between Sheldon Road and Hanley Road.
Galarza was first on scene responding to what was thought to have been a domestic disturbance but appears instead to have been a home invasion, Gee said.
The deputy approached a unit at 4329 Country Square Court, only to have a man slam the door in his face. Sensing trouble, he went inside and got into an altercation with the man, Gee said.
"We think he was trying to handcuff the guy when he was shot in the neck," he said.
The deputy was shot, staggered away from a duplex and was discovered by fellow officers, Gee said.
"It's sad, because we're starting to see way too many of these with very young offenders," Gee said.
A search began for the shooters. Officers set up a perimeter. They found one man hiding in a vehicle at Wilsky Boulevard and Drycreek Drive about three-fourths of a mile away, attempting to leave the area, Gee said. They continued to search for a second suspect and were questioning the man in custody.
Choppers circled overhead, backing up ground searches employing canine units and law enforcement officers from HCSO, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Tampa Police Department, which lost one of its own less than two months ago. Cpl. Mike Roberts was gunned down in Sulphur Springs when he stopped a heavily armed man pushing a shopping cart. Roberts wore a bullet-proof vest but the bullet entered his torso through his arm.
Stay with tampabay.com for updates.