(Updated 8/4/2013) Roy Middleton was looking for a cigarette in a car, parked on his own property, in the early morning hours of July 27, when the 60-year-old found himself injured by a hail of bullets, courtesy of the Escambia County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office.
According to 911 calls released by the Sheriff’s Office, a neighbor called police at 2:38 a.m. to report a car thief.
“Somebody is trying to steal my neighbor’s car,” a caller in Warrington, Fla. told police. “They’re actually already in the car, trying to hotwire it. He keeps ducking down underneath the dashboard, trying to reach for something.”
The concerned citizen told dispatchers that a “Black male” wearing “dark colored” tank top was rifling through his neighbor’s white 4-door Cadillac in a manner so casually that he was unaware he was even being watched, much less reported to authorities.
“This is crazy,” Middleton’s neighbor said, according to the transcript. “I’m standing out here in the middle of the yard talking on the phone, and he’s hardly even noticed me.”
Moments later the only thing hard to miss in the residential neighborhood was the sound of bullets flying. Two of them pierced Middleton’s lower body; according to CNN, he was in good condition at a local hospital with a metal rod placed in his left leg.
“What is critical in this is getting out the information as to the actions of the victim,” Escambia Sheriff David Morgan said at a July 29 press conference.
Morgan said that even with training in active-shooter situations and Critical Intervention Training, deputies are not in control of the real-life situations they are placed into daily.
“The reactions of officers are dictated by the actions of our suspect or victim,” he said, before recognizing Middleton as both.
Morgan alleged that when Deputies Jeremiah Meeks and Matthew White directed Middleton to show his hands and exit the vehicle, he put one hand outside of the car window before pulling it back inside.
“When again the verbal commands were given to exit the vehicle and ‘let us see your hands,’ he opened the car door and initially made a movement to exit the car,” Morgan said. “Then he made a lunging motion back into the car in the area of the console.”
Morgan said that when Middleton did exit the vehicle, “he did it in a lunging motion and very quickly and spun towards officers.”
Middleton raised one hand, which Morgan said had a “metallic object in it” and “at that point, the officers, fearing for their safety, fired upon Mr. Middleton.”
Middleton, a father of two, told The Pensacola News Journal that all he had in his hand were keys “with a metal flashlight attached.”
Public information officers for the sheriff’s office declined requests to speak with Morgan, telling the AFRO “more information would be released once the investigation is complete.”
Both officers are on paid administrative leave; further questions were referred to the agency’s July 27 press release.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office have opened investigations into the incident.