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Shots fired during Pasco fire captain's tense standoff with SWAT team

LUTZ — A Pasco sheriff's detective shot at a 25-year veteran of the fire department during a tense four-hour standoff Tuesday, in which authorities say Pasco Fire Rescue Capt. Louis Herrero raised his shotgun toward law enforcement officers.

None of the shots hit Herrero.

The Sheriff's Office was called just after 3 p.m. with a report that Herrero was unstable and armed. The SWAT team assembled and evacuated about three blocks of homes near Herrero's house in Lutz. A Pasco school bus of 30 children was rerouted to Oakstead Elementary.

The standoff ended near 7 p.m. after the SWAT team fired tear gas canisters into the home and was able to take Herrero safely into custody. No one was injured.

The trouble began early Tuesday afternoon, when a colleague found Herrero intoxicated and paranoid that someone was out to get him, said Pasco Sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin. Herrero, the friend said, pointed a pistol at his ceiling. The colleague backed out of the house and called the Sheriff's Office.

Herrero, 46, spoke with the Pasco crisis negotiation team, but Tobin did not say by what means, for how long or what was said.

At 6:30 p.m., authorities said, Herrero strode onto the porch and leveled his shotgun at the SWAT team surrounding his home.

Pasco Detective Sean Kennedy fired three shots. None of the rounds hit Herrero, who ran back inside his house without firing his shotgun.

Ten minutes later, tear gas rounds were lobbed inside the home. At 6:45 p.m., Herrero was seen with his hands up but he retreated inside, Tobin said.

At 6:50 p.m., the garage door opened in what appeared an attempt to air out the house. Herrero was seen in the garage and, a few minutes later, taken down by "non-lethal devices," Tobin said.

The devices were used at a distance, so this often means something like bean bag rounds shot from a weapon. Herrero was medically cleared at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and taken to the Land O'Lakes jail. He is charged with eight counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, and remained in custody Wednesday in lieu of $80,000 bail.

Kennedy, 41, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the Sheriff's Office investigation into the shooting, which is a standard procedure, Tobin said. He is a 20-year-veteran of the Sheriff's Office.

Herrero is still employed with Pasco Fire Rescue, county personnel director Barbara DeSimone said Wednesday afternoon. Officials at Pasco Fire Rescue did not return a phone call for comment.

Herrero decided as a child that he wanted to be a firefighter, according to a previous story in the Times. He was a wide receiver at Land O'Lakes High and signed up for the fire academy immediately after graduation. After accepting a job in 1986 with Pasco Fire Rescue, he was offered a football scholarship at Sterling College in Kansas. He turned it down so he could keep doing the job he loved.

But it was difficult.

"We're not machines," Herrero said in a 1998 Times article.

"I've seen kids killed in car wrecks, in drownings," said Herrero. "It haunts you."

Herrero was featured in the article because he was the first responder to a nightmarish house fire that killed two children and their pregnant mother. It was night in Hudson and the road to the house was blocked by construction debris. They could see the flames. While his crew found another route, Herrero ran in the darkness with more than 65 pounds of gear, stumbling through a storage yard. He kicked down a wooden security fence. Then he scaled a 7-foot-high chain link fence topped with barbed wire.

He ran to the house, with his crew close behind. He smashed open a window, wriggled inside. His foot brushed against something. He reached down.

"I felt the eyes, the nostrils, and thought, "This isn't a doll. It's a child,' " he said.

It was the 5-year-old boy, who died hours later. Another firefighter brought out the 3-year-old girl, who also died at a hospital. Their 38-year-old mother, who was four months pregnant, died at the scene. In 1998, Herrero was a father to two children, a boy and a girl, about the same ages as those who died.

"I saw those babies lying on that stretcher, and I saw my kids," Herrero said.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Shots fired during Pasco fire captain's tense standoff with SWAT team 12/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 6:51pm]

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