Barbara Pill, 52, of Palm Bay, a wife, mother and grandmother, was shot multiple times while investigating a report of theft at a Melbourne EconoLodge.
"Our worst nightmare has come true," Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker said hours after Pill was pronounced dead at Holmes Regional Medical Center. "We're going to miss Barbara very much."
According to Parker, Pill pulled over Brandon Lee Bradley, 22, and Andria Michelle Kerchner, 19, near the EconoLodge, but they wouldn't cooperate so she called for backup. Parker said Bradley opened fire and struck Pill several times.
Bradley and Kerchner then drove off and tried to abandon the vehicle in a neighborhood, but they were spotted and jumped back in their SUV, Parker said.
A police chase ensued, and the SUV crashed into a drainage ditch after running over Stop Sticks, Parker said. Bradley and Kerchner are scheduled to appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon. They face charges of murder and robbery.
"Deputies surrounded the vehicle and they gave up after negotiating," Parker said.
Pill was a highly decorated veteran with 30 years of experience in law enforcement, including the last 10 as a deputy with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.
"She is one of the finest deputies around," Parker said. "When you met her, she was one of the kindest people you would ever meet."
Local 6 talked to friends and neighbors of the family, who say they are just trying to cope with the loss.
"It shouldn't have happened. If anything, he's the one who should be dead," said neighbor Jason Snidkoff.
Pill had a positive effect on many lives, including Michelle Hopman's son.
"Barbara came to my home a couple times and had a talk with my 10-year-old son who is ADHD, she always talked with him with dignity and respect," Hopman said. "Barbara came out and said, 'if you need to be my mentor, I'll be your mentor.' Excellent woman, excellent woman."
Even one of the people she has arrested came out to show support.
"She just talked to me and said 'you got kids now, you gotta stop this', because I started getting in trouble since 1985, just got outta trouble in 2010," said Paul Hartsock. "She just cared."
"It's clearly a tragic event," said Melbourne Police Chief Steve Mimbs. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
Family members of Pill, including her two sons, are involved in law enforcement. One son is a fellow Brevard County sheriff's deputy and is married to a crime scene technician, and her other son is an officer with the Melbourne Village Police Department.
"Her whole family is just an incredible family," Parker said. "She made a true difference in our community."
John Pasko, the CEO of Melbourne-based Families of the Shield organization that aids families of fallen officers, said the aftermath of the shooting will likely be a very difficult period for law enforcement agents.
"There is a profound impact any time a law enforcement agent is killed. It's a sad moment, not only for the agency or the city but for the nation," said Pasko, a Melbourne police officer with 21 years of experience. "This is a time when we come together and stand by one another. We also stand with the family, let them know that we are here, that we are listening and that they are not alone. For officers, this lets us know that it could all change within seconds, within minutes."