Author: Policing Matters Podcast

Tony Holt The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Sheriff Mike Chitwood said he has never felt luckier during his 32-year law enforcement career than he did Thursday afternoon.

He wasn’t going to have to tell a young girl that her father had been killed in the line of duty.

“A millimeter lower and Sgt. Dane is dead,” Chitwood told the media a few hours after the shooting during a news conference less than 100 yards from where the face-off took place on State Road 44.

Volusia County Sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Dane, 54, had a round from a .32-caliber handgun graze his skull. The bullet punctured his K-9 baseball cap in two places and cut through his scalp, but Dane was not seriously injured, Chitwood said.

Posted by Volusia County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, April 11, 2019

The shooter, a carjacking suspect who led deputies on a pursuit from Deltona to the Volusia County Fairgrounds outside DeLand, died at the hospital from his bullet wounds, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was identified late Thursday as 30-year-old Phillip Thomas Marsh of Lake Helen.

Chitwood said Marsh had a criminal history and had been declared missing and suicidal for several days before the shooting.

“Clearly … when he came out of that vehicle, he wanted us to shoot him and he was going to take one of us with him,” Chitwood said.

Dane and the suspect were transported to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. The sheriff said Dane was airlifted to the hospital while the suspect was taken by ambulance. Dane was released from the hospital Thursday evening.

The violence started around 2:20 p.m. when a woman on Ludlow Street in Deltona was approached by a shirtless and shoe-less man armed with a gun, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He pulled a gun on her and demanded she hand over her the keys to the Chevrolet pickup that was parked in her driveway, deputies said.

The woman told a 9-1-1 operator that she had kids in the vehicle, but they safely got out of the truck before the man pulled out of the driveway and fled.

The suspect drove the white pickup out of the neighborhood and headed north along State Road 415, according to the Sheriff’s Office. At one point, the suspect swerved toward one deputy and waved his gun out the window, Chitwood said. Marsh headed north on the highway and turned west on S.R. 44. He ran over a set of deployed stop sticks, which punctured all four tires, said Andrew Gant, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The rubber on the tires fell off, so Marsh was driving on the bare rims of the pickup going 10-15 mph while deputies continued to follow him, Chitwood said. The vehicle traveled about 3 miles without tires before stopping.

The pickup came to a halt near the fairgrounds, where deputies had set up a roadblock. Marsh got out, held a gun to his head to ward off deputies, crossed the median and tried to carjack another motorist near the roadblock, but another deputy pulled in front of him and blocked him about 10 yards from the vehicle, Chitwood said.

That’s when the suspect opened fire on deputies, five of whom returned fire. Chitwood was at the scene and was behind Dane, who was one of the deputies firing at the suspect. Chitwood did not fire his gun because he “couldn’t get a clear shot,” he said.

Chitwood said he was astonished at what he saw from Dane.

“He never retreated,” the sheriff said. “He kept going forward toward the threat.

“You talk (bravery) and just being so focused on what your mission is, I’ve never (seen) anything like that.”

Marsh ran into the woods after he was shot and continued his standoff with deputies. A ballistics team moved in armed with shields and stun guns and eventually subdued the suspect. Deputies loaded the severely injured man into an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead around 5 p.m., Chitwood said.

Court records show Marsh was out on bail awaiting trial on an aggravated battery arrest stemming from an incident in September in Lake Helen. Marsh was accused of running over another man with a golf cart and injuring him.

After everything quieted down Thursday, Chitwood got on the radio and commended deputies and dispatchers.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting. All of the deputies who fired at the suspect were placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard following a deputy-involved shooting.

The highway remained closed to traffic until about 8 p.m., Gant said. The S.R. 44 ramps to I-4 also were closed.

Chitwood said he saw Dane, who has served with the Sheriff’s Office for more than 30 years, at the hospital. He was surrounded by family and was in good spirits.

“It was a great pleasure … seeing him in that hospital room with his daughter,” Chitwood said.

*Sheriff Chitwood briefing news media on deputy-involved shooting* An armed suspect who fired at Volusia County sheriff’s deputies was fatally wounded Thursday afternoon and a VCSO sergeant survived with a grazing gunshot wound to the head in a shooting that erupted near Interstate 4 after the suspect carjacked a woman at gunpoint in Deltona, led deputies on a pursuit to the DeLand area and appeared to be ready to carjack another innocent person. The initial carjacking was reported around 2:21 p.m. at a home on the 2500 block of Ludlow Street in Deltona, where the victim said a man got in her truck, pointed a gun at her, demanded her keys and then took off in the vehicle. Deputies attempted to stop the stolen truck in Deltona, but the suspect continued fleeing erratically. At one point, the suspect swerved at a deputy who deployed stop sticks on the truck. As he fled, the suspect appeared to be waving a handgun out the driver’s side window. After several stop stick hits, with all four tires appearing to be deflated, the truck slowed to a crawl and came to a stop on State Road 44 in front of the Volusia County Fairgrounds. The suspect got out of the truck with the gun still in his hand and ran in the direction of several motorists who were stopped on the road next to him. A deputy drove his unmarked SUV in the suspect’s direction, preventing him from reaching another potential carjacking victim, and the suspect ran the other direction and opened fire at several other responding deputies. Deputies returned fire, striking the suspect several times. Still armed with the handgun, the suspect went into the woods, where deputies ultimately took him into custody, brought him out and performed first aid before he was transported to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The deceased is Phillip Thomas Marsh, 30 (DOB 12/7/1988), of Lake Helen. Marsh had been reported missing and suicidal earlier this week and at the time, it was noted he was known to act violently toward law enforcement and has made threats of “suicide by cop” and suicide by other means. The sergeant who received the graze wound to the head is Sgt. Thomas Dane, 54, who has been a VCSO deputy for 30 years (hire date in July 1988). Footage from Sgt. Dane’s body-worn camera indicates he was shot soon after emerging from his vehicle. His hat was found lying on the road with an entry hole next to the “SHERIFF’S K-9 UNIT” logo on the front, and an exit hole a few inches above that. He was treated and released from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. In total, five deputies fired at Marsh. The exact number of shots fired is unconfirmed at this time. It’s believed Marsh fired multiple times. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting the official investigation into the shooting. Those who fired their weapons have been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard following a deputy-involved shooting. Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who was one of several units involved in the pursuit and was on scene during the shooting itself, commended the tactics and coordination of all involved. “Everything that they did was to try to prevent what happened – knowing that this was probably what was going to happen,” Chitwood said, adding: “I know tonight when I go home, I’ll be saying a prayer thanking the good Lord that Sgt. Dane will be back to work real soon.” The area of the incident was reopened to traffic around 8 p.m. Thursday.

Posted by Volusia County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, April 11, 2019

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©2019 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.

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