Tampa man killed by Pinellas deputies wanted ‘a nice shootout,’ police say

Dashcam footage obtained by the Tampa Bay Times shows Robert Hubbard, 43, of Tampa, pointing a gun at deputies before he was shot.
Published July 6, 2022|Updated July 6, 2022

A carjacking suspect told relatives he wanted a “nice shootout” with police the day before Pinellas deputies fatally shot him, according to investigators.

Dashcam footage obtained by the Tampa Bay Times shows Robert Hubbard, 43, of Tampa, pointing a gun at deputies, then falling to the ground as bullets fly. Hubbard died at the scene after deputies fired 59 rounds at him, authorities said.

Hubbard was carrying a BB gun, but deputies could not distinguish it from a real handgun, according to Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter, who provided an update on the investigation during a news conference Wednesday. Slaughter’s agency is leading the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force’s investigation into the shooting, in keeping with the guidelines laid out in the partnership agreement.

“He was potentially trying to pull out the suicide-by-cops scenario,” Slaughter said.

Hubbard was a suspect in a Hillsborough County carjacking and an attempted robbery in Pasco County when Pinellas deputies tried to stop him in Safety Harbor on June 30, police said. Deputies eventually used stop sticks to puncture the tires of the vehicle Hubbard was driving, bringing it to a stop near Phillipe Parkway and Enterprise Road East. That’s when they say Hubbard got out of the vehicle and pointed a gun at them.

“Already hit a bank. I’m gone. Peace out,” Hubbard wrote in a direct message to a family member via a social media account on June 29, according to transcripts shared by police. In other messages sent to the same relative, Hubbard later wrote “Gonns be a nice shootout” and “im killin cops or whoever gets in my f---in way.”

Hubbard had a history of depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts, according to Slaughter. He was convicted of robbery, grand theft and DUI charges in Hillsborough County and was facing two counts of sexual cyberharassment at the time of his death, records show.

All but one of the deputies have returned to work, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at the press conference. The deputies previously were identified as Robert Smith, Daniel Abbott, Anthony Hellstern and Demarcus Flournoy.

The task force’s investigation still is ongoing, but Slaughter said the evidence so far indicates the four deputies used deadly force in order to defend themselves and the public.

“They had to do what they had to do,” he said.