TAMPA — The caller to 911 was describing the man accused of trying to rob the Dollar General store on Tuesday when shouting could be heard in the background.
“There’s a man with a gun here threatening us,” the caller said, then started yelling to coworkers and shoppers in the store: “Everybody in here now!”
The armed man left the store and, five minutes later, was spotted by two officers.
“Tampa police get on the ground! Tampa police get on the ground!” one officer shouted, in a scene captured on a body-worn camera. “Get on the ground, show me your hands … drop the gun! Drop the gun! Drop your gun!”
After several warnings the armed man turned toward the officers, who then shot and fatally wounded him, said Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan.
Dugan discussed Tuesday’s shooting hours later at a news conference held at Tampa Police Department headquarters. The chief used store surveillance footage, audio from a 911 call and video from an officer’s body camera to piece together the events that led to the death of 26-year-old Dominique Mulkey.
The chief declined to say how many times Mulkey was shot or if he fired at the officers, saying he’ll let investigators determine that.
The shooting is now being investigated by several agencies. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the officers' actions. The Tampa Police Department is investigating whether the officers followed department policy. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating Mulkey’s death.
Neither officer was injured. Dugan declined to name the two men. He said one of the officers is 48 and has been a Tampa officer for 25 years and the other is 24 and was hired two years ago. Both have been placed on administrative leave, pending the results of the investigations.
“They were very shaken,” Dugan said. “You can see how it all happened so quickly.”
Dugan said the officers immediately rendered medical aid after the shooting and summoned Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics. Mulkey was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead later that afternoon. It was not known how long it took paramedics to arrive or when he arrived at the hospital.
The chief said the man who tried to rob the store was carrying a handgun and a black trash bag when he walked into the Dollar General store at 3110 N 50th Street about 9:20 a.m. on Tuesday. He filled the bag with various items including a box of Cheez-it and Ruffles potato chips when he was confronted by two store clerks.
They took the bag from his hands and began to walk away, according to store surveillance footage shown by police.
Then the man pulled out the handgun, Dugan said, and threatened the clerks. They gave the bag back to him, sliding it back across the floor.
In the 911 call Dugan played for the media, a store clerk can be heard describing the armed man’s clothing — then frantically yelling for everyone to get inside the store’s office for safety. Then the clerk told the 911 operator the armed man had left. The clerk said the gun looked like a black revolver.
The armed man left the store and ran north on N 49th Street, Dugan said. Within five minutes of the clerk’s call, the chief said two Tampa police officers arrived and spotted him walking north along N 50th street, across the street from the National Liquor and Package store at 3401 N 50th St.
Two officers approached the armed man, one wearing a body camera. When the armed man turned back towards the officers, gun in hand, the chief said they started firing. The body camera captured the sound of multiple gunshots.
One officer was seen ejecting an empty magazine, inserting a new one in his handgun and then aiming it again. Then the video ends.
“You can see he turns toward the officers,” Dugan said. He slowed down the video to show the man was armed.
The chief said he did not know what kind of gun Mulkey was carrying, but investigators at the scene said it was loaded.
“The whole thing is tragic,” Dugan said. “We had two officers who went through a very traumatic event. We have someone who has died. We had innocent store clerks and customers there. And now we have families that have to put the pieces back together.”
The Dollar General is across the street from one of the most harrowing scenes in Tampa Police Department history: The area where Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were shot and killed by Dontae Morris during a late-night traffic stop in 2010.
Morris was captured days later after the largest manhunt in city history. In 2014 he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death. Two crosses still mark the spot where the officers were killed.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a former police chief, issued this statement:
“This is a difficult day for all involved. My thoughts are with the family who lost a loved one under tragic circumstances, with the officers who were put into a position that required them to use deadly force, and the innocent store employees who were traumatized by this incident. The officers took actions today to protect our community.”
Times staff writer Dennis Joyce contributed to this report.