Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

Pasco sheriff: Deputies fatally shoot barricaded man who wanted to commit 'suicide by cop'

HOLIDAY — Tear gas canisters. Stun grenades. A remote-controlled robot. A Taser. Then, finally, gunshots.

That's the arsenal the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said it deployed during a 3-hour standoff with a man who barricaded himself in his home after deputies said he beat his pregnant girlfriend and threatened to shoot them.

The standoff ended around 12:30 Monday morning, said Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, when a SWAT team stormed the house. Eric St. Germain, 39, lunged at a deputy with a knife, the sheriff said, who then fatally shot the man.

Nocco said the man wanted to die by "suicide by cop" — a term that means someone wants to die in an encounter with law enforcement.

"The suspect in this case, his actions dictated our reactions," Nocco said. "We wanted a peaceful resolution. He did not."

The incident started around 7 p.m. when neighbors told deputies they heard two people, a boyfriend and his pregnant girlfriend, arguing in their home at 5245 Blue Jay Dr.

About 30 minutes later, the arguing continued. Neighbor Rick McDonald peaked over his fence and said he saw the couple in the backyard. St. Germain spit on the woman, McDonald, 62, said, and the man raised his hand like he was going to hit her. McDonald said he stopped looking, though, because he didn't want to see the assault. He said he doesn't know if the man actually hit her.

The girlfriend, who was not identified by deputies, called 911 just before 9 p.m. Deputies arrived minutes later and found her outside the home. She looked like she had been battered, Nocco said.

The girlfriend told deputies St. Germain kept guns and knives in the house and told them he wanted to commit "suicide by cop."

When deputies made contact with the man from outside the home, they saw him holding a knife. He also told them he was armed and would shoot them, Nocco said.

A negotiator spent two hours trying to get St. Germain to surrender. Talks broke down, and the Pasco SWAT team started firing tear gas and stun grenades — also known as flashbang grenades because they use sound and light to disorient — into the house to force the man to leave.

But that didn't work. So the SWAT team entered the home, Nocco said, and found St. Germain inside a bathroom, holding a knife. He had stuffed towels under the door to keep the tear gas from seeping in, the sheriff said.

The deputies ordered the man to drop the knife, but he wouldn't. So Nocco said they tried to shock him with the Taser. That didn't stop St. Germain from lunging at deputies, Nocco said, and that's when Deputy Josuah Anton shot him.

St. Germain received medical attention, the sheriff said, but later died of his injuries.

Anton, who has been with the Sheriff's Office since January 2012, was placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure when a deputy fires their weapon.

Nocco said St. Germain had been drinking, possibly since 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and may have also been using prescription medication. He also had an extensive criminal history that included charges of drug possession, battery, disorderly conduct and grand theft, Nocco said.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's office is conducting a criminal investigation to determine if the shooting was justified, said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. Once that is complete, the Sheriff's Office will conduct its own internal investigation. The Sheriff's Office will not ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate, which some agencies choose to do after an officer-involved shooting.

"If there is anything unusual, we would bring in a third party to investigate," said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Amy Marinec. "At this time we're not doing that."

Scott Dolin, who lives across the street from the house, said deputies evacuated him and many of his neighbors from their homes around 9:30 p.m. They watched the incident unfold from down the street but weren't allowed back into their homes until around 2 a.m.

Dolin, 30, said there was so much tear gas billowing out of the barricaded home that it appeared to be on fire. When the wind blew it in his direction, he said, and his eyes watered so much he couldn't see. The home still smelled of tear gas late Monday morning.

The tear gas, Dolin said, was followed by the sound of six gunshots.

"It was literally a war zone," he said.

Both Dolin and McDonald said they often heard the couple yelling, and McDonald said St. Germain often acted erratically. Sometimes he'd pace the street at 3 a.m., McDonald said, while profusely sweating.

"This was building," McDonald said.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.

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