A Hillsborough deputy was justified in his use of deadly force during a traffic stop on Halloween, according to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.
Ma’at Lee, 20, opened fire during a traffic stop at 43rd Street and Skipper Road, striking the patrol vehicle of Deputy Geovanny Rodriguez. The deputy returned fire. A use of deadly force review from the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, released Tuesday, cleared the deputy, stating he was in reasonable fear for his life. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident.
No one was injured during the exchange of gunfire. Rodriguez invoked his right to remain anonymous under Marsy’s Law, an amendment to the state constitution meant to protect victims of crime. However, Sheriff Chad Chronister previously released his name at a news conference.
Investigators found that at about 4:40 a.m. on Oct. 31, Rodriguez, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for three years, was parked in a marked patrol vehicle with his lights off. He saw a silver Jeep park in the same lot. When Rodriguez turned on his headlights to leave, the driver of the Jeep turned on its lights and sped in front of the deputy, officials said.
The deputy initiated a traffic stop for driving without a license plate near North 43rd Street and Skipper Road at 4:46 a.m. Lee did not pull over, according to the report. Instead, he stopped in the road, at which time Rodriguez used his public address system to give Lee instructions. The deputy shined his spotlight onto the vehicle and saw one person in the driver’s seat. Rodriguez stayed in his vehicle, waiting for backup, the state attorney’s office said.
Rodriguez then saw the driver hang halfway out the window and saw the flash of a gun, according to the review. The deputy ducked and took cover in his vehicle. Lee fired at least eight shots, striking the vehicle. Rodriguez fired three shots through the front of his windshield.
Lee abandoned the Jeep a short distance away.
Rodriguez’s body camera and a nearby Ring surveillance camera captured the incident on video. Two distinct gunfire sounds are heard in the video, according to the review, indicating that Rodriguez fired his gun at the Jeep immediately after Lee fired his gun. A witness to the event also corroborates this account, the state attorney’s office said.
Investigators said they found several spent shell casings on the street around the area where the Jeep was parked. The car was later found abandoned close to the site of the incident. Investigators found more casings on the floorboards of the Jeep, the review said.
A few days before the shooting, the Jeep was taken at gunpoint during a carjacking, and Lee was identified as the perpetrator, according to the review.
Lee faces multiple charges, including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, armed robbery with a firearm, grand theft with a firearm and carjacking.
The shooting came toward the end of a 10-day theft spree for Lee, which started in Cobb County, Ga., and ended with his arrest at his apartment near Hellenic Drive and 42nd Street in Tampa, Chronister said previously.
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Lee has an arraignment set for next week.