A standoff that started with a barn fire and escalated to what Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis called an active shooter situation ended Friday night when deputies shot and killed the man they said started it.
It happened in the 9100 block of Erma Road, west of Brooksville. Deputies began swarming the area about 5 p.m. and told neighbors to stay indoors as they tried to take control of what the sheriff later described as a chaotic and hectic scene.
Nienhuis released more details in a news conference late Friday, saying at least two of his deputies shot the man, identified as Steve John Roosa, 64. On Saturday morning, the sheriff’s office said Roosa had died.
Two other people had been taken to local hospitals earlier in the day with gunshot wounds after Roosa shot them.
“The situation is resolved,” the sheriff said. “Unfortunately, we could not resolve it peacefully.”
A witness to what occurred told deputies that a suspect had been firing a gun all day, “apparently just target practicing,” Nienhuis said. The man, later identified as Roosa, was described as having been depressed and “acting strangely.” Sometime Friday afternoon, he set fire to a barn.
Neighbors apparently noticed the blaze and came to try to help. Roosa then started shooting at them and a person who lived on the property, Nienhuis said. He then barricaded himself in a house.
Several callers to 911 reported the fire and someone shooting people. Deputies arrived to find thick black smoke pouring from behind the home where Roosa lived, which sits on about three acres surrounded by woods. The deputies could hear gunshots somewhere on or the property, sheriff’s officials said.
A woman who was shot was taken to a hospital as deputies arrived. A injured man who was shot was lying “out in the open.” Deputies determined it was too dangerous to try to reach him. A sheriff’s SWAT team later moved in to rescue him.
The woman received medical treatment and was released from a hospital. The man remained in the hospital Saturday. His condition was described as critical but stable. The Sheiriff’s Office has not released their names.
Hostage negotiators tried to talk with Roosa but he would not respond to them, Nienhuis said. Deputies sent a drone into the house to watch Roosa. They determined he was armed with handguns and rifles and a significant amount of ammunition.
The SWAT team later broke into the house and deployed “chemical agents,” sheriff’s officials said. Roosa then walked out the front door, armed with at least one gun. SWAT deputies then shot him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
No sheriff’s deputies were injured.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the deputies’ use of force, while the Sheriff’s Office will handle the criminal investigation, sheriff’s officials said. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s office and the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also probing the incident.
Want breaking news in your inbox?
Subscribe to our free News Alerts newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The sheriff said his office knew little about Roosa; he did not have a significant history of encounters with law enforcement.