JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man shot and killed while running from police after an undercover drug sting at a St. Nicholas apartment Thursday evening was identified as Victo Larosa III, a 23-year-old who was on probation for selling cocaine last year.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the stolen car that Larosa was driving in an effort to get away from the drug bust, accelerated toward and struck Sgt. Dennis White, who was approaching on the sidewalk as part of the apprehension team.
"The detectives at the scene thought he was dead right there, being thrown that high in the air and then landing on his head," JSO Director Michael Bruno said.
A person News4Jax spoke with who didn't want to be identified says Larosa (pictured) tried to jump in his car and then into his home.
"The guy tried to jump in our car and we told him that he couldn't get in the car. So he cut through the yard, and tried to come in the house and I told him he couldn't come in the house. So he cut through and then police came and told everyone to get in the house."
Sheriff Mike Williams went to the hospital Thursday night to check on White, a 24-year veteran of the department, who suffered a serious head injury. He was went through a number of tests overnight and was released on Friday.
According to police, the fatal police shooting came at the end of a day of controlled drug buys plainclothes officers were conducting on Thursday afternoon. In six previous deals, police made six arrests and recovered one weapon. Then a detective in an unmarked car met a middleman about 6 p.m., who directed him to a parking lot at the Mayfair Village apartment complex to buy $60 worth of crack cocaine.
Officials said the middleman told the potential buyer, who he didn't know was a police officer, to wait in the car and he would send the dealer over.
A short while later a man in a silver Ford 500 pulled up next to the officer's car. The middleman brought the drugs from a man in the second car -- later identified as Larosa -- to the detective, who gave a takedown signal.
Police said that when Larosa noticed that officers were moving in to make arrests, he threw the car in reverse and struck White so hard, he flew over his vehicle, then struck five other cars and the apartment building before jumping out of the car and taking off on foot with two police cruisers in pursuit.
Tiwana Kirkland, whose car was one of those hit, was angry that all this happened while children were playing nearby.
"It's bad because the kids were still out there and it was daylight and the children around here playing," Kirkland said.
Bruno said the officers were keenly aware of the environment and said no shots were fired in the complex. The only person endangering lives there was Larosa.
"In this case, we had an attempted murder of a police officer and someone that is showing total disregard for any residents in the area," Bruno said. "None of the officers fired their weapon in that apartment complex."
Police said Larosa ran down Beach Boulevard and onto Drexel Avenue, where he began running through yards and jumping over fences.
According to police, Larosa fell while he was jumping one fence, allowing Detective Mike Boree to catch up with him. While the suspect was getting to his feet, police said he reached toward his waistband while turning toward Boree.
Officials said the detective, fearing for his life, fired eight rounds at Larosa. It wasn't known how many bullets struck him, but Larosa died at the scene.
Police said the area was searched overnight, but no gun was found.
"It was senseless," said Mayfield Village resident Robert Hicks. "Over a $20 dope deal the man lost his life."
While officers pursued Larosa, the original man who was acting as the middleman in the drug buy took off, authorities said. As of Friday afternoon, police were still searching for that man, who was described as black with his hair short dreadlocks 5 feet 9 to 10 inches tall, who was wearing a blue shirt and khaki shorts.
Boree was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, which is standard police procedure for officer-involved shootings. Police said Boree had fired at a suspect in 2008, but that shot missed.
According to News4Jax records, Thursday's shooting marks the seventh police-involved shooting this year, three of which resulted in deaths.
There were 16 police-involved shootings in 2014, six of which were fatal.