BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Brevard County sheriff's investigators could not say whether an erratic driver was armed when he made an 'overt action' that prompted a deputy to fire into the vehicle.
The driver, 46, later died from his wounds shortly after the Sunday evening confrontation in Rockledge, News 6 partner Florida Today reported. Sheriff Wayne Ivey, whose agency is conducting its own investigation into the deadly shooting, said the deputy feared for his life while approaching the stopped car.
Cpl. David Turbeville, the deputy involved in the incident at U.S. 1 and Rockledge Drive was not injured. Cocoa resident Ronald Jay Lawson has been identified as the suspect who led deputies on a pursuit that began a short time before the 6:11 p.m. shooting. Sheriff's spokesman Tod Goodyear said that more interviews would have to be conducted before that information would be released. Investigators would not comment on what type of ' overt action' Lawson took.
“This investigation is very early on,” Ivey said during the Sunday night press conference, noting that the incident began when the suspect was seen driving a compact car at Parkway Drive and U.S. 1 in Melbourne. "Our deputies at that time attempted to make a traffic stop on a vehicle that was driving erratically."
The pursuit led to the decision for Stop-sticks to be deployed several times, flattening three of the car’s tires. Lawson continued north on U.S. 1. A pit maneuver, used by patrol cars to push vehicles, was used to bring an end to the chase near Rockledge.
Turbeville then approached Lawson, then fired once Lawson made his unexplained action, according to Florida Today.
"My father had been outside and he told my brother and I to both stay inside," Oakledge Drive resident Kristin Bickers told News 6 Monday. "The gunshots went off. I heard about four or five. My father says he heard about six."
Information on how many shots were fired by the deputy was not released.
Turbeville, who has been with the Sheriff's Office for just over three years, was placed on administrative leave with pay. He has served as a patrol officer and field training officer before being promoted to corporal in 2016.
Lawson did not have an extensive criminal arrest history. There was a 2004 domestic violence case that prosecutors later dismissed. Other cases involved traffic infractions. Lawson's Facebook profile shows a man from Lexington, Ky. who went to Eastern Florida State College and lived in Cocoa. A photo posted in 2016 showed "Ronnie" Lawson having "Fathers Day lunch with the best daughter in the world" with a young woman.
The Sheriff’s Office is conducting its own investigation into the shooting. The agency will present its findings to the State Attorney’s Office for review.
“We police our own,” Ivey said Sunday evening, shortly after the shooting. “We’re very transparent.”
"If they're telling you to pull over it's for your own safety and it's better for you that you don't run," Bickers told News 6 in support of the Sheriff's Office.
Bickers also called on deputies to release dash camera video recordings during the chase and shooting.
"You don't actually know what happened unless you see the footage yourself," Bickers said.
Emily Smart was inside the nearby Goodwill store about half a mile to the north of the incident and said she heard the commotion but did not hear the gunfire.
“I heard sirens and a helicopter,” the 21-year-old told Florida Today. “And I was here for awhile.”
Nearly a dozen patrol cars were seen parked along U.S. 1 Sunday after the shooting, lighting up the area along the roadway with red-and-blue lights as investigators looked over the scene. Deputies also redirected traffic from both north- and southbound lanes of the highway.
Northbound traffic was diverted west onto Viera Boulevard and southbound traffic onto Barnes Boulevard. Travelers were asked to avoid the area and use Murrell Road.
All lanes reopened by midnight.
Florida Today reporters J.D. Gallop and Tyler Vazquez contributed to this story.
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