CLEARWATER — Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a man armed with a handgun after he forced his way into the home of an ex-girlfriend and held the gun to the head of a man inside, police said.
Deputies had been negotiating more than an hour with Josue Arias, 32, of Tampa, when he walked out of the house holding the gun and appeared to be trying to find them, Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter said during a news conference. Four deputies fired at Arias a number of times, killing him, Slaughter said.
Arias may have fired his gun once or twice earlier but did not shoot at the deputies before they opened fire, Slaughter said.
“The deputies fired in response to his reckless nature of coming out and looking for, basically, a firefight,” Slaughter said.
The incident began when the ex-girlfriend called 911 just before 3:40 a.m. Tuesday to report that Arias was armed and at the door of a home at 2175 Indigo Dr. in the Greenbriar neighborhood of unincorporated Pinellas County.
Slaughter gave this account of the incident:
The ex-girlfriend and a man inside the home retreated to separate rooms as Arias forced his way inside. The woman armed herself with a handgun.
Deputies arrived and set up in a tactical formation, using a vehicle that provided them cover and enabled them to speak through a public address system. They evacuated neighboring homes.
The woman was able to get free, came outside and put down her gun. She was escorted to safety.
Deputies gave commands to Arias in an effort to defuse the situation. The woman had left her mobile phone inside, still connected to 911, so they learned that their commands were only agitating Arias. They changed tactics.
At one point, Arias came to the door holding a gun to the head of the other man inside. Later, the man was also able to get free and was escorted to safety.
Deputies heard Arias saying he did not want to return to prison so they grew concerned that the incident would not end peacefully. He was released from state prison in April 2016 after serving nearly five years for two Pinellas County charges of burglary of an occupied dwelling or conveyance and one charge from Hillsborough County of manufacture, sale or delivery of marijuana, Corrections Department records show.
Arias stepped out into the foyer and patio area of the home, then into the yard, apparently trying to determine the locations of deputies he had seen earlier. The deputies opened fire at 4:49 a.m.
It appears Arias had stolen the revolver he carried from his ex-girlfriend. He had come to the attention of law enforcement before over domestic disturbances and was the subject of efforts to obtain an injunction, Slaughter said.
Police did not release the name of the man and woman in the house.
Next-door neighbor Matt Gurevitz, 30, said deputies tried for some time to end the standoff, repeating about 20 times, “Sir please come out of the house.”
“It sounded like the police were trying to be peaceful,” Gurevitz said. “And then, I don’t know why, they opened fire.”
Gurevitz looked out a window once the gunfire stopped and saw a man lying in the street.
While the shooting involved Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies, the Clearwater Police Department will investigate through the county’s Use of Deadly Force Task Force. The task force was formed last year to ensure agencies don’t investigate their own in cases where a police officer or deputy kills someone.
The four deputies who fired their weapons were placed on administrative leave by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office while the incident is investigated. This is standard procedure in a deadly force investigation, according to Clearwater police.
The four deputies are William Byrd, hired in 2018, Cameron Frame, hired in 2018, Cristian Miller, hired in 2018, and Claudio Dimundo, hired in 2007.
Staff writer Kathryn Varn contributed to this report.