SPRING HILL — A deputy from Pasco County and three Hernando County deputies shot and killed a man after he allegedly broke into a home and began shooting at deputies positioned outside the residence, according to Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis.
Nienhuis and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco held a joint news conference Tuesday in Spring Hill to discuss the shooting.
According to Nienhuis, the events began around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Balsam Avenue area of Hudson. Nocco said a man and woman entered an unlocked home, tied up an 89-year-old man who was sleeping in the house and stole some items from the home, along with the man’s SUV. A second woman was waiting outside for the two suspects, and she drove off in a separate vehicle.
The resident, who was unharmed, freed himself and called 911 around 6 a.m., according to authorities. Deputies are not sure at this point in the investigation if he and the three suspects knew each other. They did not release the name of the resident or home invasion suspects Tuesday evening.
Around 6:45 a.m., Hernando County deputies received reports about a vehicle on fire in the Dandelion Court area of Spring Hill. Nienhuis said it was later determined to be the SUV stolen from the home in Hudson earlier that morning, and that deputies believe the fire was intentional.
Meanwhile, Pasco County deputies continued to investigate the home invasion, Nocco said. Just before 1:30 p.m., Pasco detectives located a vehicle driven by one of the women believed to be involved in the home invasion, according to a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office news release from 7:20 p.m.
Detectives followed the vehicle and said the driver and passenger were disposing of items stolen in the home invasion in Hudson. The detectives confronted the two women, who admitted to stealing the items and told authorities that the man who was with them during the home invasion was at a home in the Holly Hock Lane area of Spring Hill, according to the release.
Hernando deputies, who were working with Pasco deputies at this point, sought a warrant for the Spring Hill home, Nienhuis said.
While they waited for the warrant, detectives patrolled the area and saw the man outside the house around 1:20 p.m. The man identified the detectives, who were not in uniform, as law enforcement and took off, Nienhuis said.
Hernando detectives requested assistance, and a Pasco K9 deputy in the area came to help track the man, according to the release.
The detectives left to grab bulletproof vests, then returned to the area, Nienhuis said.
During this time, the Hernando Sheriff’s Office received reports about a suspicious person jumping fences in the area. Deputies eventually determined the man was inside another home and had taken the residents hostage, the release said.
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There were two elderly people and two children inside the home at the time, Nienhuis said, and the children hid in a bathroom.
The suspect moved to the garage of the home, and around 1:50 p.m. he began shooting through the garage door at deputies stationed outside, Nienhuis siad.
“Make no mistake about this, if the individual started firing rounds that were going inside the house, we would have attacked,” Nocco said. “We would have gone inside that house. We would have neutralized the subject and rendered aid.”
Deputies did not shoot into the house out of fear of hitting one of the residents inside the home, he said.
The man then left the house and ran down Davenport Lane, exchanging gunfire with officials, Nienhuis said. The man was shot around 2:05 p.m. He was taken to a local hospital, where he later died, according to Nienhuis.
At least four deputies were involved in returning fire — three Hernando County deputies and one Pasco County K9 deputy, Nienhuis said. All four have been placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the shooting.
The names of the deputies involved in the shooting were not released.
Late Tuesday night, the Hernando Sheriff’s Office issued a news release that identified the man who was killed as Victor Thomas Torres, 42.
“It’s sad there’s any loss of life, but at the same time, the suspect dictated our actions,” Nocco said.
One Hernando deputy had a small laceration on his face, possibly from glass that shattered when a bullet passed through it, Nienhuis said. No one else was injured.
According to Nienhuis, Torres was affiliated with a gang and had been released from prison in May 2021.
Florida Department of Corrections records show Torres has served prison terms on charges on armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault on law enforcement, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, grand theft, grand theft auto and trafficking in stolen property.
The two women suspected of being involved in the Hudson home invasion are in custody and are being interviewed, Nocco said.
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office identified them Wednesday morning as 42-year-old Bridgette Harvey and 38-year-old Jamie Kujawa. Harvey faces a charge of robbery home invasion with a firearm or deadly weapon and Kujawa faces a charge of robbery home invasion with a weapon, according to Pasco complaint affidavits.
Times Staff Writers Chris Tisch and Amy Gehrt contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story used an incorrect first name for the Pasco sheriff in a photo caption. He is Chris Nocco, not Jeff Nocco.