Two Pasco County sheriff's deputies shot at in Dade City

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said anxiety is high among law enforcement officers.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said anxiety is high among law enforcement officers.
Published Dec. 29, 2014

DADE CITY — Three gunshots were fired at two deputies early Sunday while they were monitoring traffic at an intersection, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.

Neither deputy was hit and no one at the scene was injured, the Sheriff's Office said.

The incident happened just hours after the burial of Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek, who was shot and killed while responding to a noise complaint Dec. 21. It also follows the killing of two New York City officers reportedly targeted by someone seeking revenge for the deaths of black men at the hands of police this year.

"I can tell you the anxiety level is extremely high right now with our families," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a news conference Sunday in Wesley Chapel. "What we've dealt with in the Tampa Bay region the last several days, burying Charlie yesterday, these are the things that are in our heads."

The two deputies Sunday were in separate cars in the parking lot of Northside Baptist Church watching traffic at the nearby intersection of 21st and Lock streets at about 3:30 a.m.

One of the deputies who was shot at reportedly heard a "whizzing sound" of bullets flying by his car. The Sheriff's Office did not release the names of the deputies or any information about them Sunday.

Neighbors told investigators they heard three shots and saw a small, dark vehicle with tinted windows in the area at the time of the incident.

The shooting occurred in a tragic week for law enforcement and amid a growing sentiment within the ranks that officers are being targeted by the communities they strive to protect.

More than 100 Pasco deputies were among the nearly 3,000 people who attended Kondek's funeral, which drew law enforcement from as far as Chicago on Saturday. That shooting's suspect, who investigators say feared returning to prison for a probation violation, is in custody.

Another funeral was held in New York City on Saturday for one of the two officers killed Dec. 20. The officers were gunned down while in their patrol car in Brooklyn.

The gunman reportedly sought to kill cops as retribution for police use of lethal force in the controversial deaths of black men in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, Milwaukee and Cleveland. He reportedly killed himself.

In cities nationwide, people have marched to protest the killings by police, as well as the fact that officers in the Ferguson and New York cases were not charged with crimes.

It was unclear if the Dade City shooting on Sunday was motivated by the protests, but Nocco said officers are feeling the tension. He mentioned that on Dec. 26, Pasco deputies found graffiti in Meadow Pointe that said "Shoot MP cop" — MP meaning Meadow Pointe.

"Absolutely disgusting," Nocco said of the graffiti.

"The pendulum has swung against law enforcement," Nocco said. "There's a lot of violence going on in our community, and there are a lot of people threatening law enforcement for unjust reasons."

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Deputies had not identified suspects regarding the shooting or the graffiti Sunday, and Nocco asked anyone with information about either case to contact the Sheriff's Office. Crime Stoppers offered a $3,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the shooting case.

"If they think they're going to get away with it in this county or any other county in the Tampa Bay region, they're absolutely kidding themselves," Nocco said. "Because we're going to come out in force. And we're not going to apologize, we're not going to be politically correct. We're going to do what is right."