ST. PETERSBURG —The deputy parked his unmarked vehicle in an alley on Thursday night, waiting.
He was working with fellow officers in the Violent Crimes Task Force, trying to catch up with a driver who’d fled two traffic stops.
The car never showed. Instead, a man walked up to the vehicle. Deputy Richard Curry rolled down his window, and the man realized he was an officer. He walked away.
Moments later, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the man returned with a second man, both armed.
What followed was a shootout that ended with the deputy killing one of the men in an alley littered with shell casings.
Curry fired his 9mm pistol 18 times, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. The agency said Marquis Golden fired an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and Delvin Ford fired a .40-caliber handgun at the deputy. The sheriff said it wasn’t clear Friday who fired first.
Gualtieri said he didn’t know why the two men would attempt such a brazen ambush, but said their criminal histories show they’re “bad guys.”
“Why they decided to try and kill a cop — I can’t answer that question," Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times.
Golden, 29, of St. Petersburg, was struck several times by the deputy and founded dead at the scene. Ford, 22, faces charges of second-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Florida law allows authorities to charge a person with murder if they take part in certain felonies that result in someone’s death. In Ford’s case, he was arrested for Golden’s death because both were engaged in the crime of attempted murder, said Deputy Travis Sibley, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
Curry, 32, wasn’t injured and has been placed on paid administrative leave, per Sheriff’s Office policy for deputy-involved shootings.
The shooting took place at about 9:40 p.m. in the 2200 block of 36th Street S. But the situation started about 20 miles north in Clearwater.
It was at about 9:07 p.m. when a Clearwater Police Department officer tried to pull over a Lexus for a traffic violation at Harn Boulevard and U.S. 19, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The driver drove away and headed south on U.S. 19.
The Clearwater officer didn’t chase the car, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Most agencies allow pursuits only when an officer suspects the vehicle’s occupants have committed, or are trying to commit, a violent felony.
A few minutes later, a Largo Police Department officer saw the same Lexus and tried to pull it over on U.S. 19 at Whitney Road, the Sheriff’s Office said. The driver refused to stop and fled east on Roosevelt Boulevard. The officer did not pursue the car.
Detectives discovered that the vehicle was registered to a house at 2222 36th St. S in St. Petersburg. The Clearwater Police Department contacted the Clearwater officers working with Pinellas deputies in the task force. The St. Petersburg Police Department used to be involved in the task force but pulled out last year.
Members of the task force went to the house to look for the Lexus. Curry parked his unmarked vehicle in the alley next to the residence.
Golden approached the unmarked car from a detached apartment behind the house, looked through the front windshield and saw Curry. The agency said Curry was wearing a tactical vest with "sheriff" written in large white letters across the front.
Curry rolled down his window. Golden called him a “trol” or “troll,” which is slang for law enforcement officer, the agency said. Curry acknowledged that he was a “troll,” the sheriff said, and told Golden to leave. Golden walked away.
Moments later, the Sheriff’s Office said, Golden and Ford returned to the unmarked car and pointed their weapons at the deputy. Curry got out of his cruiser and fired his weapon at them.
The men dropped the AR-15 rifle and a loaded 9mm handgun as they ran from the alley, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies who converged on the scene found Golden dead behind the home, the Sheriff’s Office said. A Clearwater police dog found Ford hiding with a .40-caliber pistol on the roof of a home on the 2300 block of 36th Street S.
Investigators found three spent shell casings from the AR-15, which had 27 rounds left in it, the sheriff said. They also found five spent .40-caliber shell casings from Ford’s gun, the sheriff said, in a path that indicated he shot at Curry as he was running away south.
The sheriff added that detectives are looking at video from the dashboard camera of a ride share driver who was in the alley during the shooting. The driver had made a wrong turn, and gunshots can be heard in the footage obtained by WTVT-Ch. 13. Pinellas deputies do not wear body cameras, and the sheriff said the undercover vehicle did not have a dashboard camera.
The Lexus never showed up at the house, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Come 8 a.m. Friday, the crime scene was still largely blocked off with yellow tape, and about 15 sheriff’s vehicles had spilled out into the surrounding neighborhood. Inside the detached apartment, detectives said they found two other loaded firearms, one reported stolen from Hernando County.
Ford was booked into the Pinellas County jail at about 11:45 a.m. and is being held without bail.
Steve Blackstock walked up to the scene from his home a block over with his 7-year-old mutt, Fatz.
“Guess we’ll have to change our walk,” he said, leading the dog away from the sheriff’s vehicles.
Blackstock, 67, said he was listening to his stereo and didn’t hear gunshots Thursday night, but his wife did. They hunkered down inside, figuring something bad was going on. Other neighbors who declined to identify themselves also heard multiple gunshots, with one saying there were “too many shots to even count.”
At a Friday news conference, Gualtieri said both Golden and Ford have lengthy criminal histories.
Florida Department of Corrections records show that Golden was released from prison in May after serving a 19-month sentence for charges including cocaine possession, fleeing law enforcement and failure to appear. His arrest history dates back to his youth, according to state criminal records.
Ford’s criminal history shows multiple arrests in 2016 and 2017. It includes convictions of cocaine possession and sale, fleeing and eluding, and obstruction charges.
Curry, who was hired at the Sheriff’s Office in 2016, has made headlines before for his involvement in use-of-force incidents. In April, while working on the task force, he and a St. Petersburg police officer repeatedly punched a man who ran from police after an attempted traffic stop.
St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway disciplined his officer, sustaining a complaint that he used an unnecessary amount of force. But Gualtieri didn’t discipline his deputy, Curry.
When asked about the two use-of-force incidents within a year, Gualtieri said that was just Curry "doing his job.”
“This isn’t about Curry. This isn’t about deputies,” the sheriff said. “This is about people not complying with law enforcement.”
In February 2017, Curry used a Taser on and tackled a man who tried to run from a traffic stop. The man reached for his waistband and punched Curry as the two struggled on the ground, the Sheriff’s Office said at the time. Backup deputies responded and found a 9mm handgun under the man.
Sheriff’s Office discipline records show Curry was suspended for five days after he engaged in an unauthorized, dangerous car chase with a driver that fled an attempted traffic stop for a seatbelt violation in July 2018. Curry drove more than 100 mph trying to catch up to the driver, according to an internal investigation.
Before his career at the Sheriff’s Office, Curry had worked as an officer for the University of South Florida Police Department since 2009. That same year, he was deployed overseas with the Florida Army National Guard, according to an online biography.
He was named USF Officer of the Year in 2015 and recognized for his rescue of a mother and daughter trapped in a flooding car.
“It means a lot to be able to help the community,” Curry said at the time.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct photo of one of the shooting suspects. The wrong photo was posted earlier due to an error by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Frank Pastor contributed to this report.