PORT RICHEY — Two lay dead after a firefight broke out between a mentally ill man and deputies near Gulf Highlands Elementary School on Thursday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
It started when Brian DiSario, 30, fatally shot 56-year-old David Armstrong, whom he believed was making advances on his girlfriend, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
But DiSario did not have a girlfriend.
"In his mind, he did," Nocco said. "But in reality he did not."
Then DiSario engaged in a gunbattle with deputies, the sheriff said, and was later found dead.
But the Sheriff's Office could not say late Thursday whether DiSario killed himself or was killed by deputies. No deputies were injured in the incident.
The sheriff described the scene along Gulf Highlands Drive, where the shootout broke out on the road that parents use to pick up their children from school.
"There's shell casings scattering that ground," Nocco said. "It was an absolute gunbattle in the middle of the street."
DiSario had a history of mental illness, the sheriff said. The first death took place inside the garage at 11605 Constance Drive. DiSario was there with his mother, her boyfriend and her friend, Armstrong.
DiSario shot Armstrong, the sheriff said, then went into the house, got a different firearm and shot him again.
Deputies were called to the scene about 2:50 p.m. The school, which lets out just before 4 p.m., was placed under lockdown. Deputies surrounded the school, Nocco said, fearing that DiSario would emerge from the house armed with more weapons.
That's because those who knew him said DiSario was stockpiling firearms.
"We knew he had long guns," Nocco said. "We knew he had ammunition."
When two deputies arrived at the home, they said DiSario was in the road with his weapon pointed at the ground. They ordered him to drop the gun, Nocco said.
Instead, DiSario lifted the barrel, aimed and started firing at them.
The sheriff could not say how long the shooting lasted or how many rounds were fired. After DiSario went back into his home, Nocco said, the deputies followed and found Armstrong's body in the garage.
Backup quickly arrived. Eventually, they sent a robot into the house and found DiSario's body.
The sheriff did not release the names of the two deputies involved in the shooting but said they have been placed on administrative leave. Deputies also did not say what kind of weapons DiSario used to kill Armstrong or shoot at deputies.
The investigation is ongoing. Pasco investigators will work with federal authorities to determine whether DiSario was a legal gun owner.
Inside the school, 11-year-old Emilee Goldbaum sent the same text message to her mother, stepmother and grandmother.
"There's a real live lockdown at school,'' she wrote. "I love you.''
Emilee, a fifth-grader at the elementary school, sent the texts starting at 3:22 p.m., then told her family she stayed in a closet and under a table. But she didn't know why they were on lockdown, and her stepmother, Stephanie Goldbaum, 37, didn't want to tell her, fearing it would upset her more.
Anxious parents, unable to pick up their children from the school, gathered in the parking lot of a mostly vacant strip center that once was home to a Food Lion store.
Jeff Dyson said a deputy stopped him as he approached the school and rerouted him to the parking lot. He said he didn't mind the inconvenience if it kept the students safe.
"It's too close to the school, with little kids there,'' he said.
Times senior news researcher John Martin and staff writer Michele Miller contributed to this report. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.