Man fatally shot by SWAT team crawled through window, took wife, her brother hostage

FDLE investigating shooting near Grove Square plaza in Eustis

By Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager, Jerry Askin - Reporter

EUSTIS, Fla. - Lake County sheriff's deputies shot and killed a gunman who had been holding two people hostage inside a home, officials said.

The fatal shooting was reported in the 400 block of North Center Street near the Grove Square plaza on Highway 19 in Eustis.

According to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, deputies were called to assist the Eustis Police Department after a man barricaded himself in a home with his estranged wife and her brother.

Deputies later identified the suspect as 55-year-old Tracy Alan Richards and said he broke into the home through a window at 3:30 a.m. Authorities said Richards and his wife were going through a divorce and he had vandalized her home a few weeks before the shooting.

Investigators said Richards was suicidal and those close to him recently raised concerns about his mental state.

Tracy Richards

Richards threatened the hostages if they tried to leave, deputies said.

Sheriff's officials said negotiations for a peaceful surrender failed, and Richards confronted deputies outside the home around 6:30 a.m. Lake County Sheriff's Office SWAT team members opened fire and fatally shot Richards, authorities said.

Officials said the man confronted deputies behind the plaza, which abuts the home's backyard.

"Ultimately, the suspect came out of the house with a gun to his head," LCSO Lt. John Herrell said. "He saw our deputies in the area, he yelled insults to them and had no intentions of cooperating."

The hostages were uninjured and were in the home when the shooting happened.

Zachary Troke, who works nearby, said he saw and heard the whole thing. 

"I hear all the cops say get on the ground get down," Troke said. "It was like pah pah pah, it was loud." 

Neighbors said Richards had been abusing his wife, but she was too afraid to report him. 

"Her husband has been abusive. Three weeks ago she kicked him out and he’s been calling and threatening her ever since," one neighbor, who didn't want to be identified for safety reasons, said. "You need to get help. If you don’t get help you could end up dead."

In a police report filed last month, Richards' wife told Eustis Police her husband ransacked her home and spray painted messages throughout the home saying things like “I tried you’re a quitter," and “goodbye.”

Five Lake County deputies involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, which is standard procedure.

This is the second fatal officer involved shooting in Eustis in less than a month. On June 14, deputies shot and killed an armed man at an Auto Zone store. That shooting is still under FDLE investigation.

News 6 is working to see if the suspect ever opened fire and the role each deputy played.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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