Prosecutor clears Orange deputy involved in shooting but questions his 'truthfulness'

OCSO's internal investigation report found no 'untruthfulness' by deputy

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Three deputies who shot a suspect in September 2018 will not face charges, but the state attorney's office has asked Orange County Sheriff John Mina to investigate the "truthfulness" of one of the deputy's statements made under oath to Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents, according to a letter from Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra.

The state attorney's office cleared three deputies in June following a review of the FDLE use-of-force investigation.

On Sept. 26, 2018, three deputies, including Deputy Thomas Boggs, followed a suspect in an unmarked Jeep Cherokee and did not identify themselves before shooting him.

According to the state attorney's office review, the FDLE found that the suspect did not know he was being followed by deputies.

The deputies said they began following the suspect in his truck after he was seen leaving a "known drug house." After the suspect failed to stop a=for at least one stop sign, deputies continued to follow the suspect, still not identifying themselves as law enforcement officers.

In a report detailing the agency's internal investigation, the Orange County Sheriff's Office notes that one of the deputies said they exited their vehicle with their flashlights after the first time the suspect randomly stopped driving. When the suspect began driving again, deputies got back into the vehicle and followed the suspect, according to one of the deputies. The deputy said at that point, they discussed conducting a traffic stop.

Fearing he was about to be robbed, the suspect stopped, backed up and quickly got out of the truck. He was armed and pointed at the unknown individuals in the Jeep Cherokee, saying, "I have a gun," because he was attempting to scare the people following him, still not knowing it was law enforcement officers, according to state attorney's findings.

Still not identifying themselves, all three deputies fired their agency-issued firearms at the suspect. He was struck by two rounds of the approximately 14 fired by the deputies.

At no time were any emergency lights activated and the suspect did not fire his gun, the state attorney's office report found.

"Because none of the three deputies identified themselves as members of law enforcement, I believe (the suspect) had reasonable fear he was being followed and targeted by unknown individuals who had malicious intent," the letter read. "This fear, which was created by law enforcement, led (to the suspect) making the decision to exit his truck with his firearm."

The state attorney's office found that the officers were justified in their use of force because they were in reasonable fear for their lives when the suspect pointed a gun at them, and no criminal charges will be filed against them.

However, the letter goes on to state that the chief assistant state attorney had "grave concerns regarding the conduct and truthfulness of Boggs during the FDLE's investigative process."

Barra writes that Boggs, on four separate occasions during his interview with FDLE agents, failed to mention details leading up to the shooting, including the fact that another deputy involved reported the first stop deputies made, during which they exited the vehicle and approached the suspect's vehicle with their flashlights, according to the internal investigation report.

The statements, which contained "significant" missing facts and which Boggs made under oath, were in "direct conflict with the facts of this case as established by four other witnesses involved," Barra writes.

During the internal investigation, Boggs said he didn't mention the first stop because it only lasted a few seconds and he did not believe it was relevant to the use of force, according to the report. Boggs said he would have answered questions about the stop had he been asked. 

According to the internal investigation report, Boggs said no one approached the suspect's vehicle during that stop Barra raised questions about in her letter.

"The account provided by Deputy Boggs is at best incomplete and misleading, and at worst, intentionally deceptive and self-serving," Barra said, adding she requests Mina conduct an internal investigation into Boggs' truthfulness.

The internal investigation report revealed that "none of the testimony or evidence obtained showed there was any untruthfulness by Deputy Boggs at any time during this investigation or that of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement."

News 6 has asked the Sheriff's Office for comment on Barra's recommendation.