NEW PORT RICHEY — A Pasco sheriff's deputy was justified in the fatal shooting of a man who fired at deputies after setting fire to a car dealership, an investigation by the Pasco Pinellas State Attorney's Office determined.
In a letter to Sheriff Chris Nocco on Thursday, State Attorney Bernie McCabe wrote that Patrick Tillery's death May 15 was the result of being shot by Sgt. Jeremy Colhouer "while in the performance of his legal duty and that the shooting was justifiable homicide."
In mid April, Tillery, 43, bought an SUV from Rock Bottom Auto Sales in Hudson. Upset over his purchase, he went back May 12, threatened owner Mario Vavoulis and vowed to burn down his business and kill him.
At 7 p.m. May 14, detectives say, he followed through. Tillery went to the dealership, smashed a surveillance camera and a Corvette's windshield with a brick, and set a Nissan Frontier on fire behind the building.
Ten minutes later, cameras at the dealership's other location, on U.S. 19, picked up a man with a red gas can dousing a Toyota 4Runner. The fire also burned the side of the building.
Tillery had an extensive criminal history in Pinellas County, records show. In 13 arrests, he was charged with fleeing to elude, burglary, vehicle theft, resisting an officer and burglary with assault.
When he returned to his home on Yucca Drive in New Port Richey about 9 p.m., he told his wife and 14-year-old daughter about the crimes. About 1:15 a.m., deputies showed up at his house to arrest him on arson charges.
Tillery's wife, Jessica, told deputies her husband had left hours earlier but they were free to search the house.
At a news conference the next day, Nocco said Jessica Tillery led the deputies into a potentially fatal situation.
"She walked our people into an ambush," Nocco said.
Two deputies searched the house and encountered Tillery, in a shooter's stance in a bedroom down a hall.
Deputy Hans Bollenbacher dropped to the floor to take cover as Tillery shot at him. Bollenbacher shot two times and Colhouer shot three times.
Tillery fired at the deputies four times. Two of their bullets hit Tillery; one from Colhouers' gun struck him in the chest and killed him, McCabe wrote.
Jessica Tillery was charged with one count of accessory after the fact, a third-degree felony, on May 20. She posted bail, pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
A message to her phone was not returned.