'Hero’ neighbor shot, killed man accused of abusing family, Pasco sheriff says

The neighbor helped the children next door and tried to defuse the situation, says Sheriff Chris Nocco. Then he came under fire.
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Published Aug. 22, 2019|Updated Aug. 22, 2019

TRINITY — Two armed neighbors exchanged gunfire on Wednesday night, deputies said.

The surviving neighbor is being hailed for trying to help a family in distress. The other neighbor is accused of domestic violence just before he was shot and killed.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said the surviving neighbor was trying to help a family in distress before gunfire erupted.

“All indications here, he was a hero,” Nocco said.

The Sheriff’s Office received a report of gunshots at about 6:50 p.m. Neighbors said it took place on Crestridge Loop in the Trinity Preserve neighborhood.

Rick Sells wasn’t home at the time but his family said they heard at least eight gunshots erupt in the neighborhood, then saw about 20 sheriff’s vehicles lining the suburban street and learned what happened.

“I was shocked, hoping it’s not true," said Sells, 42.

The Sheriff’s Office said domestic violence led to the shooting, and gave this account:

A man physically abused a woman inside a home. The woman started screaming for help from inside. Then she started lowering a number of young children down from a second-floor window.

A neighbor who was mowing his grass nearby came over to help. The neighbor took the kids to safety.

Then the man came out of the house. The neighbor tried to calm him but the man “wasn’t having anything to do with it," Nocco said.

The neighbor returned to his property. Then the man took out a gun and started shooting at the neighbor.

But the neighbor who was mowing his grass was also armed. He fired back, fatally wounding the man.

The Sheriff’s Office has refused to identify any of the people involved, citing its interpretation of Marsy’s Law — a state constitutional amendment intended to protect crime victims.

Sells watched the sheriff’s livestreamed news conference on his phone. Then Sells said he knew the man who was killed. The family had three children. Sells first met them when he moved into the neighborhood four years ago. The man even helped Sells paint his house once.

Sells declined to name the man who was killed. When he got up for a run on Thursday, he saw a stain on the road by the man’s house. Neighbors hosed it off hours later.

“You never know what’s going on behind people’s doors,” Sells said.