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Three siblings are suspected of shooting at Zephyrhills police car

ZEPHYRHILLS — Authorities say the Dougherty siblings have a "large stockpile of weapons," including an AK-47 purchased a few years ago in a local pawn shop. They suspect the three siblings were the ones firing shots Tuesday morning at a Zephyrhills police officer who tried to pull them over.

And they say this recent text message from Ryan Edward Dougherty to his mother indicates how dangerous the trio is:

"At one point," he wrote, "we all have to die."

Now the manhunt is on for Dougherty, 21, and his brother Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26, and sister Lee Grace E. Dougherty, 29, who have been on the run since Tuesday morning's shootout. The officer was not injured, but his car was hit by at least one bullet that ended the pursuit.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco urged the trio to turn themselves in peacefully.

"The walls are closing in on you," Nocco said at a Wednesday morning press conference.

"I promise you, we will win."

• • •

Ryan Dougherty has an arrest record stretching back to age 15, when he was charged with disrupting a school function in Flagler County. Later arrests included battery, burglary, destroying evidence and possession of methamphetamine — but authorities say Tuesday's incident may be rooted in his recent conviction as a sexual offender.

Dougherty was sentenced Monday to two years of community control and 10 years of probation for lewd and lascivious behavior and sending obscene material to a minor. Details of that incident, which happened in Volusia County, were not available.

As part of his community control, Dougherty was ordered to wear a monitoring bracelet, authorities said.

On Monday night, Dougherty and his siblings stayed at a girlfriend's house in Lacoochee. When the girlfriend awoke Tuesday morning, she found all three Doughertys were gone.

So was her 2006 white Subaru Impreza.

Probation officials realized something was amiss Tuesday morning after receiving signals indicating Ryan Dougherty's monitoring bracelet had been removed. They contacted Dougherty's girlfriend, whose name has not been released, to see if she knew his whereabouts.

She didn't. She filed a missing person's report.

• • •

A few minutes after 7 a.m. Tuesday, a Zephyrhills police officer saw a white sedan speeding near Sixth Street and Ninth Avenue. When he tried to pull over the car, it sped up.

The car stopped several times so the occupants could fire rounds at the officer.

"They were definitely intending to harm him and cause him great and grave harm," Nocco said.

The officer continued the pursuit for about 5 miles at speeds topping 100 mph, until a bullet hit his left front tire at Morris Bridge Road and State Road 54.

Investigators later found about 20 casings for bullets of multiple calibers.

A camera inside the officer's patrol car captured footage of the pursuit. Authorities showed that video to Ryan Dougherty's girlfriend.

That's her car, she told them.

• • •

The Doughertys have been living in Lacoochee for the past three years or so, authorities said. But prior arrests place the siblings across Florida, including Flagler, Orange and Volusia counties.

Contrary to initial reports that suggested the shooters were black, all three suspects are white.

Nocco said the rush of a chase sometimes means officers report the wrong information.

"From the officer's standpoint, you're going 100 miles an hour, you're being shot at, you know. Sometimes that information isn't relayed back correctly," Nocco said. "This is law enforcement. This is not a situation where we're playing checkers or chess and we can slowly take things methodically down the road."

"When you're out there in life-and-death situations, things happen at a millisecond."

Nocco said all three suspects should be considered armed and dangerous. He noted that Dylan Dougherty Stanley bought an AK-47 from a Zephyrhills pawn shop about five years ago. And he said Ryan Dougherty's girlfriend confirmed all three are heavily armed.

Anyone who has any information should contact authorities.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

The Doughertys

Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21, is 5 feet 10, 180 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He became a registered sex offender Monday; by the next morning, authorities say, he removed his monitoring bracelet. His prior arrests include battery in April 2007, burglary in June 2007 and destroying evidence and possession of methamphetamine in September 2007. He was also arrested May 2008 on a hit-and-run charge for leaving the scene of a crash that caused property damage.

Lee Grace E. Dougherty, 29, is 5 feet 4, 120 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Her prior arrests include a battery charge in 1997 and an aggravated battery charge in November 2006. On May 7, she was arrested on charges of DUI and battery on a law enforcement officer. Ten days later, she was arrested on a charge of leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident.

Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26, is

6 feet 1,

185 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. His only prior arrest was for possession of marijuana in May 2008 — the same day his brother was charged with a hit and run.

To help

Anyone with information about the shooting or the Dougherty siblings should call the Sheriff's Office

at (727) 844-7711. The toll-free crime tips line is 1-800-706-2488. Information can be left anonymously.

Three siblings are suspected of shooting at Zephyrhills police car 08/03/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8:51pm]
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