LACOOCHEE — The headlines that flew around the Internet on Friday sounded so wonderful:
"Card case saves Pasco deputy from bullet."
"Deputy shot; saved by business cards."
"Pasco deputy's card holder stops bullet."
This is the type of story everyone wants to believe in — a deputy shot in the line of duty but saved by a metal card case in his breast pocket. It's something that gives you tingles and makes you think of fate, higher powers and guardian angels. How many people own metal card cases these days, let alone carry them? What are the chances of the bullet hitting that spot?
But, unfortunately, it's not true to say he was saved by only the card case — though it did likely save him from further injury.
Here is what happened:
Just past 10 p.m. Thursday, two Pasco County sheriff's deputies responded to a burglar alarm at Sam's Quick Mart, 39010 State Road 575 in Lacoochee. The shop was closed for the evening, with no employees inside.
The burglar — a young black man, as seen on the store's surveillance camera — got inside the store through an air-conditioning vent. The deputies pulled into the front parking lot and, as they were about to split up to cover the building, the burglar fired a volley of bullets.
One hit Deputy Jeffrey Chandler, 31, in the chest. He has been on the force for two years.
The bullet first went through the store's front glass and the metal sheet that covers the glass at night, slowing it down. Then the bullet hit the metal business card holder that was in Chandler's shirt pocket.
Chandler also was wearing a bulletproof vest, which likely would have stopped the bullet if the case hadn't.
So to say the card holder saved him is not entirely true, said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
But "it definitely prevented further injury," Doll said.
The case did literally stop the bullet, though. It did not burrow through it to hit the vest. The force of the impact made Chandler stagger a few feet, but it did not knock him down. The other deputy helped Chandler as they both ran to a ditch for cover.
Doll would not say how many shots were fired, what type of gun was used or the caliber of bullets. He did say that people shot while wearing bulletproof vests can still be seriously injured.
No injury; big bruise
Chandler was treated and released at the scene Thursday and spent the next day recuperating. Doll said Chandler suffered no broken bones or other injuries. But he did have one heck of a bruise and told Doll he felt like he had been slammed with a police baton in the chest.
The card holder, engraved with Chandler's name, was a Christmas present from his sergeant and lieutenant. He carried it in the shirt pocket of his uniform each day. Chandler's fellow deputies keep joking that he needs to get another soon, since this one is now out of service.
Photos of the warped and bent card holder show the force of the bullet — and how Chandler could have been hurt if it hadn't been for this gift.
The store where Chandler was shot was open for business at midday Friday. The owners, who were very upset, refused to talk about what happened, though they said they were thankful the deputy was not hurt.
Deputy killed nearby
A records search shows Sami Kasselyas of Land O'Lakes has owned the shop since 2004. The store has a bit of everything a person might need — food, toiletries, auto goods, children's toys, alcohol, paper products — especially when living in a rural area and either not wanting to trek to a large store or not having the means to do so. The bullet holes in the window were covered with posters as the owners worked on getting someone to replace the glass.
The gunman is still at large and is considered to be armed and dangerous, Doll said. For hours after the shooting, deputies swarmed the area with dogs and a helicopter searching for the man who is not the first person in recent years to shoot at an officer in that same area.
Just 1 mile away, down State Road 575, past a teeny speck of a post office, a horse pasture and a narrow lane called Slaughter Road, is where a deputy was murdered in 2003.
Pasco sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison — the highest ranking black officer in the history of the Sheriff's Office — was shot in the back by a high-powered rifle while sitting in his patrol cruiser, on duty. He was 57 and days from retiring. Alfredie Steele Jr., 19 at the time, is now serving a life sentence for Harrison's murder.
Times Researcher John Martin and Times Staff Writers Jamal Thalji and Casey Cora contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.