HOLIDAY — The deputies knew going in it was going to be dangerous. Luther "Fatboy" Hudson told people that if the law came for him, he was going to shoot. He had done it before: In 1988, when he was 18, Hudson shot at two Tarpon Springs police officers, missing one by inches.
Now at 38, he was suspected of running a drug house on a quiet, residential street in Beacon Square. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office began an investigation several months ago, after neighbors complained. Undercover agents bought crack cocaine from the house, said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.
Before dawn on Friday, a SWAT team gathered to serve a search warrant at the house at 3550 Windham Drive. Doll said it was classified as a high-risk situation, because of Hudson's threats of shooting law enforcement.
At 5:35 a.m., they went in.
Hudson — a 365-pound felon who has spent 12 of the last 20 years in prison — opened fire with a handgun from a bedroom, authorities said.
He hit a deputy in the chest, shattering his radio. The deputy's bullet-proof vest saved his life.
That deputy returned fire and hit Hudson. He was taken to Community Hospital in New Port Richey, where he died.
In accordance with protocol, the deputy — whose name has not been released — has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is reviewed, Doll said.
Several people who were in the house at the time of the raid were detained for questioning, Doll said. By late Friday, two had been arrested on drug charges: Rose Marie Mazzone, 36, and George Hudson, 51, the brother of the man who died.
Family members and neighbors lingered along the street for hours after the shooting. A regular Friday neighborhood barbecue typically takes place a few doors down, but many who showed up that morning left after learning the news.
One man drinking beer and smoking a cigar identified himself as Hudson's brother-in-law, Todd Rogers. Rogers' sister, Kerri Norkus, was married to Hudson, he said, but was killed in a car accident a few years ago. Hudson has been "a little unstable" since she died, he said.
"He was the nicest man in the world," Rogers said. "They shot his a-- for no reason.
"They knew his previous record. He's not a bad person."
This area of modest homes near the Gulf of Mexico used to be a favorite of retirees. But in recent years, the neighborhood has changed as younger residents have moved in. Neighbors have seen an increase in crime, and the area has weathered the steepest depreciation of home values in Pasco County since the 2006 peak of the housing boom.
Two doors down from Hudson's house, neighbor Rick Winch woke up to the commotion outside. He never heard gunshots, he said, and thought the overhead helicopters were tending to the recent brush fire that threatened the homes in Beacon Square.
It's normally a quiet neighborhood, Winch said.
"You drive through and it looks a little on the rough side," he said.
He looked up and down his street at the news vans and reporters.
"But I woke up, and it looks like this."