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Shooting by Seminole Tribe police officer was a first, spokesman says

TAMPA — What prompted the 24-year-old to hijack the golf cart is still a mystery.

But that robbery and subsequent ramming of a police officer landed Jonathan Bestoso in the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds — the target of the first-ever police-involved shooting at any of the Seminole tribe's seven Florida casinos.

The officer, 20-year-veteran Daniel McGillicuddy, is now on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He left the hospital with a neck brace Friday after suffering scratches and road rash, a tribe spokesman said.

Bestoso was expected to survive and be charged with aggravated battery and strong-armed robbery. In the past year, he has been arrested six other times on charges of soliciting in a right of way, battery on a law enforcement and three times for open container.

Seminole police spokesman Gary Bitner said the casino's extensive surveillance system caught all of Thursday night's melee on camera. He said the FDLE will have full access to it.

The footage was not made public, but Bitner described the night's events:

Bestoso had been loitering inside and outside the complex. He was not observed gambling.

About 7:15 p.m., he went to the lower level of the north parking garage and found a maintenance worker riding a golf cart, Bitner said. Bestoso ran after the cart and yanked the driver off, roughing him up, the spokesman said.

At some point, the maintenance worker's gold necklace came off. Bitner said it's unclear whether that was accidental.

Bestoso took off in the golf cart, Bitner said.

Officer McGillicuddy happened to be in the area and ran up to the scene as Bestoso started driving off, Bitner said. McGillicuddy caught up to the golf cart in a matter of minutes.

That's when Bitner said Bestoso hit the officer with the cart, knocking him to the ground. It's unclear whether he actually ran over the officer.

McGillicuddy then shot Bestoso three or four times, striking him in the chest, Bitner said.

Both men were taken to Tampa General Hospital, McGillicuddy with cuts, road rash and head wounds, and Bestoso in critical condition.

McGillicuddy was put in a neck brace and later released from the hospital.

An updated condition report for Bestoso was not released Friday.

Though the Seminoles' police force is part of a sovereign entity, the FDLE took on the investigation by prior agreement with the tribe. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office also assisted by collecting evidence from the crime scene.

Bitner explained that while the tribe is exempt from most state regulatory laws, criminal laws still apply on tribe land. People arrested at the casino are still taken to the Hillsborough County Jail and prosecuted by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

Bitner said the tribe's 150 police officers receive the same training as those from any other agency. They typically carry both guns and Tasers, though Bitner could not immediately confirm whether McGillicuddy had his Taser during the incident.

According to a September article in the tribe's newspaper, the Seminole Tribune, McGillicuddy has been twice honored by the Seminole Police Department for saving lives. In 2009, he rescued a 3-year-old child trapped in an overturned vehicle and also saved someone trying to jump from a parking garage.

A Georgetown, Mass., native, McGillicuddy served in the Army from 1985 to 1989, the newspaper reported.

Times staff writers Robbyn Mitchell, Emily Nipps and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Reach Kim Wilmath at kwilmath@sptimes.com or 813-226-3337.

Shooting by Seminole Tribe police officer was a first, spokesman says 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 4:23pm]
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