WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. – Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said a 2-month-baby was “directly in the middle of the shootout” when a gunman stepped out of a vehicle and shot a deputy in the leg during a Monday traffic stop, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
Two BCSO deputies returned fire, killing the gunman, identified later as 38-year-old Paris Wilder, of Cocoa.
The shootings occurred just after 1 p.m. along U.S. 192 in West Melbourne, just west of the Interstate 95 overpass. Afterward, investigators cordoned off the long-vacant former Texaco gas station site at Columbia Lane with yellow crime scene tape.
The wounded BCSO deputy is hospitalized and expected to make a full recovery, Ivey said in a 5-minute Monday night video message.
The investigation continues, and Ivey said dashcam video will be publicly released.
Early during the traffic stop, Ivey said a second BCSO deputy arrived at the scene to assist. He said the suspect vehicle had three occupants, and the 2-month-old baby and the gunman were in the back seat.
Ivey said the suspect was asked to exit the vehicle — and in an ambush, he started firing at the deputy closest to him with a short-barreled rifle. That’s when the deputy was shot in the lower leg. Both deputies returned fire.
“The suspect was the initial aggressor in this case, as he concealed his weapon until he exited the vehicle and immediately began firing on our deputies in an attempt to take their lives and avoid arrest, as he was wanted on several warrants,” Ivey said.
“As the suspect continued to violently engage our deputies, he concealed himself multiple times behind the cars and eventually ran up behind one of our deputies — using the butt of the rifle to strike him multiple times in the head, causing significant lacerations and tissue damage,” he said.
The other deputy shot the suspect multiple times, Ivey said. He did not identify the deputies involved in Monday’s shootings, and he did not divulge further details.
“The suspect is a perfect example of what is wrong with our criminal justice system, as he is a registered career criminal with 23 felony arrests and 17 misdemeanor arrests for narcotics trafficking, aggravated assault with a weapon, robbery with a firearm, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and attempted first-degree felony murder,” Ivey said.
“This career criminal was actually out on bond and on our streets, where he could attempt to kill our deputies and put others’ lives at risk — when he should have been locked up safely behind bars a long time ago, where he couldn’t victimize another citizen or innocent bystander,” he said.
A couple of hours after the shootings, Chief Deputy Michael DeMorat outlined basic details of the incident during an outdoor news conference at the shopping complex off Coastal Lane. That’s when eyewitness Souad Houssamy walked up and addressed reporters — she had been car shopping at nearby Audi Melbourne.
Houssamy, who lives in Palm Bay, said she and her husband were driving from the St. Johns Heritage Parkway east along U.S. 192 when they encountered the shooting scene. She said she heard a woman screaming, “Help! Help! Please help!” and a deputy was lying on the ground. The other deputy was pointing his gun toward a car.
“It is getting worse. This thing has to stop. We are worried. We’ve been in this town for 35 years. We don’t have no problem. Now, every time you hear something going on — which is not right,” Houssamy told reporters.
“It has to stop. We have to be peaceful,” she said.
Wilder was a “registered career offender” with 40 previous arrests, including 23 felony arrests for charges that included robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault with a weapon, multiple narcotics offenses, battery of a law enforcement officer and attempted first-degree felony murder, according to the sheriff’s office. Wilder was out on bond for two felony drug charges and had two active felony warrants at the time of the incident.