The fatal shooting by deputies of an armed man who forced his way into the home of an ex-girlfriend was justified, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s office has determined.
Four Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies fired at Josue Arias, 32, of Tampa when Arias raised a handgun toward them after entering the home at 2175 Indigo Drive in Clearwater, authorities said. Three deputies fired first, Arias fell and fired from the ground, and a fourth deputy shot him with a rifle, authorities said.
The determination that the Sept. 7 shooting was justified came in a letter from State Attorney Bruce Bartlett to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The deputies were acting within the legal scope of their duties and Arias was committing the felony crimes of armed burglary, armed kidnapping, and aggravated assault, the letter said.
The investigation of the shooting was conducted by the Clearwater Police Department through the county’s Use of Deadly Force Task Force, formed last year to ensure that shootings involving a law enforcement agency are investigated by an outside agency.
The letter from the State Attorney’s Office, released Friday, provides detail about events leading up to the shooting.
Just after 3:30 a.m. Sept. 7, the woman who lives at the home, Joanne Mohr, woke to an alert from her Ring doorbell. She got out of bed, leaving her fiancé, John Michael Jancek, III, still asleep.
Mohr saw Arias, her ex-boyfriend, standing on the doorstep holding a gun. Mohr grabbed her own gun, ran to her office, and called 911. Jancek woke when he heard glass break on a sliding glass door. He came out to see Arias walking around the house with a gun.
“One of us or all of us are going to die tonight,” Mohr heard Arias say.
Mohr stayed on the 911 call while deputies were dispatched, allowing them to hear what was happening inside.
After deputies arrived, Mohr escaped from her office, came outside and put down her gun, leaving the phone connected inside.
For the next 40 minutes, Jancek and Arias remained inside the house. Over the phone, deputies heard Arias say, “I’m not going to prison again.”
Arias served nearly five years for burglary of an occupied dwelling or conveyance, and for manufacture, sale or delivery of marijuana, state Corrections Department records show.
Arias then grabbed Jancek and walked him through the house to the front door while holding a gun to Jancek’s head. Arias told Jancek to go, and Jancek ran toward a group of deputies who took him to safety.
The deputies noticed Arias looking toward a separate group of deputies who had set up beside and behind the house. After continued commands to come outside, Arias stepped out and began pacing back and forth. He went inside again, then came back out smoking a cigarette and still holding a revolver.
Arias looked toward the deputies at the side of the house and made his way toward them. They shouted again for him to put down his gun. Instead, he continued walking toward them and raised his gun.
Deputies William Byrd, Christian Miller and Cameron Frame fired at Arias and he fell to the ground, the letter said. Arias shot at the deputies and they continued firing. Another deputy, Claudio Dimundo, came around the corner of the house and fired two shots from AR-15 rifle at Arias.