OCALA, Fla. – Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods fiercely defended his deputies Friday, days after they shot and killed a man who attacked them with a large knife at a gas station near The Villages.
Woods identified the attacker as 51-year-old Eliezer Perez. Woods said Perez was involved in a similar attack on firefighters in South Florida in 2014.
The deputies were uninjured in the attack, which happened late Tuesday as they were getting gas at the Circle K on SE Highway 42.
Woods said Perez, armed with a very large knife, charged at the deputies in an unprovoked attack. The deputies responded with deadly force.
“I think they did an outstanding job. Outstanding,” Woods said.
No motive is known at this moment, and Woods said to his knowledge his agency never had any previous contact with Perez.
Woods started a news conference by saying, “Two of my deputies were attacked," before lambasting legislators.
“This is a warning to state and federal legislators,” Woods said. “Bills being introduced that tell deputies what they can and can’t do when it comes to deadly force (are absurd). Circumstances should dictate how (deputies) react. Taking that away is about the most dumbass idea I could think of.”
Woods said legislators should focus on having felons serve their full sentences, adding that if that was the case with Perez, his deputies would not have been in a dangerous situation.
“My deputies came close to losing their lives,” Woods said.
Woods said men and women in uniforms risk their lives “every single day.”
“You need to give thanks every time you see a man or woman in uniform for what they do for you,” he said. "There’s an inherent danger of taking the oath and wearing the star or the badge, but that’s who we are, to protect every single one of you.”
Woods said his deputies body cameras captured video of the attack, but it’s not known when it will be released due to an ongoing investigation, led by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The deputies have been placed on paid leave, which is standard procedure in deputy-involved shootings.
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