New Smyrna Beach officers cleared in fatal shooting of man who fired at them

3 officers, 1 deputy opened fire

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Three New Smyrna Beach police officers and one Volusia County deputy have been cleared of wrongdoing in a shooting that left a 25-year-old man dead last year.

The state attorney’s office released a letter Tuesday saying the police use of force in the case had been reviewed along with witness statements and investigative reports and prosecutors decided no further action was required.

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Records show a Port Orange officer tried to pull over Matthew Thomas, of Holly Hill, around 4 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2020 but Thomas continued speeding and driving recklessly into New Smyrna Beach, where he crashed outside of a storage facility on Turnbull Street and Industrial Park Avenue.

Thomas is then accused of climbing onto the roof of a storage facility and firing at the officers below him.

Corp. Ralph Hunnefeld, Officer David McCallister and Officer Margaret Deal of the New Smyrna Beach Police Department and Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brady Bergeron returned fire, killing Thomas.

Hunnefeld was also shot in the leg during the gunfire. He was released from a hospital and returned home the next day.

Graphic body camera video from Bergeron, available here, shows the deputy shooting at Thomas at least five times but it’s unknown how many times he was shot or where the bullets struck him.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said said Thomas had a lengthy criminal history and had been arrested 25 times before his death.

After the fatal shooting, the law enforcement officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

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