DeLAND, Fla. - Law enforcement officers in DeLand were forced to fatally shoot a man Sunday evening after he refused to drop his gun following a high-speed chase, officials said.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said a call was made around 5:06 p.m. that the 45-year-old man, identified Monday afternoon as Mario Simoes, was at his wife's law firm at 919 Biscayne Blvd. "shooting up the place," and that he was possibly suicidal, adding that the suspect had been drinking and was upset over marital issues.
After deputies arrived at the scene, they said the suspect fled in his Mercedes-Benz car at speeds of up to 100 mph. He hit stop sticks on Old Daytona Road and crashed into a Ford truck occupied by a man and his wife who were leaving a nearby Lowe's store, officials said. The couple in the Ford were taken to an area hospital to be checked out, officials said.
"He was coming too fast/ I think he hit it on purpose, to be honest," said Luis Rivera, who saw the crash.
He had no idea the driver who hit the pickup truck was armed.
"When I ran over, I asked the guy in the black Mercedes if he's OK. He said he's OK but basically he's in trouble," he said.
Deputies said as they approached Simoes, he appeared to be reloading his gun. He refused repeated commands to drop the weapon and made a move, prompting two deputies and one police officer to open fire, officials said.
“We have three independent witnesses who say it felt like two minutes -- they just kept hearing deputies and DeLand police officers saying, ‘Drop the gun, drop the gun, drop the gun,’ before he was fatally shot,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
Simoes was pronounced dead at the scene, near a Publix store and in front of a row of homes.
DeLand police Chief Randel Henderson said the department's officers receive training annually on how to handle people who may be suicidal, but that ultimately officers have to make quick decisions.
“We deal with the complexities of human behavior,” he said. “We never know at any given time what someone’s thinking, what’s going to punch their buttons and what’s going to make them react. (Officers and deputies) very quickly have to look at a scenario that unfolds around them and act accordingly.
The DeLand Police Department identified the officer involved in the shooting as Officer Jason Floryance, 37. He has been employed with the department since 2007, according to DeLand police records.
The shooting is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement while the crash is being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol. Deputy Brant Lickiss, 26, and Sgt. Mike Chilcot, 49, from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, were also involved in the shooting.
The couple who was in the pickup truck that Simoes crashed into came back to the scene Monday afternoon to collect supplies they bought at a home improvement store that had fallen out of their truck.
The wife said she has a hurt leg while her husband is suffering from a few broken ribs. Neighbors who heard the crash said they're lucky to be alive.
"It sounded like a loud firework going off, like a boom," one neighbor said.
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