GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Deputies and police in Gainesville said they had no choice but to shoot a 16-year-old boy brandishing what appeared to be an assault rifle Sunday night, threatening to kill himself. Police said Monday afternoon the gun was a realistic replica -- not a real gun.
Robert Dentmond was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Majestic Oaks Apartments after he called 911 about 10 p.m. to say he was suicidal and had a high-powered rifle, according to the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
Dentmond told dispatchers he wanted to shoot himself, then hung up, investigators said.
Patrol units arrived at the apartments and confirmed Dentmond appeared to have an AR-15-style assault rifle and they called for backup from the Sheriff's Office and Gainesville police.
Deputies and officers talked to Dentmond, who at one point dropped his weapon. But officials said he would not move away from it. After several minutes, Dentmond picked up the weapon, then began walking toward an occupied apartment building, investigators said.
“I was hoping he would put that gun down and don't pick it up,” witness Sammy Carter said. “I thought if he would do all of that, everything would've been straight.”
Another witness caught the confrontation on video, which was posted on Facebook Live. (Note: News4Jax has chosen not to show the moment Dentmond was shot.)
The police report said deputies and officers from both agencies began to give a series of loud verbal commands telling Dentmond to drop the weapon. Detectives said Dentmond did not respond to the directions and continued to walk toward the building.
On the witness' video, police can be heard yelling, “Drop it now, or you will be shot! Drop it now! One more step, (and) we're going to shoot you. Drop it now! You cannot get to a building where you're going to hurt someone.”
That's when deputies and officers opened fire, wounding Dentmond, who fell to the ground. He later died at the hospital.
“He decided not to listen to those commands, and after ample opportunity he was given and, unfortunately by the individual's action, deputies and officers had no choice but to employ lethal force in order to protect the citizens who live in that apartment complex,” said Lt. Brandon Kutner, a spokesman for the ACSO.
Analyst breaks down witness video
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, a former police officer in Jacksonville, watched the Facebook video and explained from a law enforcement perspective what happened.
“Before the shots are fired, he picks up the weapon, and in two minutes or a minute and a half, police officers tell him seven times -- I counted seven times -- to drop the weapon (and said) 'We can't allow you to go back to apartment complex,'” Smith said. “At one point, he was almost pleading with him to drop it, almost like, 'We don't want to shoot you.'”
Smith said that although the video showing the last moments of Dentmond's life is disturbing, it doesn't tell the whole story.
“It's not going to be 100 percent of the evidence, because it's not a good-quality video. We can't see his hands,” Smith said. “Did he make an aggressive move toward the officer that we just can't see from this video? We don't know.”
Smith said he had one point of pause from watching the video.
“One thing that I noticed -- but the video is not very clear -- just prior to the shots being fired by the police, it didn’t appear he had taken another step back toward the complex,” Smith said.
But from the point Dentmond picked the gun up again, Smith estimated the teen had stepped back about 20 feet before stopping again.
Alachua County deputies said they have seen the Facebook video.
“I think if you look at the video, once he bends down and rearms himself, you can see him slowly start to back up,” Kutner said. “If you listen closely to the video, you hear the deputies make it very clear to him they will not allow him to enter a residence with that rifle and do harm to somebody else. They actually told him several times (that) if he continued to walk away toward those apartment complexes, they would have no choice but to shoot him.”
Smith said officers could not have known from where they were in the dark that Dentmond's weapon was fake. He said they just couldn't take a chance.
“That is extremely traumatic for police officers. They will always second-guess themselves. Did we do the right thing? But at this point, they did do the right thing, I think, because they had no way of knowing the weapon was not real,” Smith said.
Neighbors narrowly escape gunfire
No one else was injured but the barrage of gunfire aimed at Dentmond hit several apartments. On Monday, the aftermath of the shooting could be seen in blown out car windows and bullet holes in walls.
The residents of those apartments said they understand why police had to open fire, because they had no way of knowing Dentmond was holding a fake gun. But they don't understand why the shots from police came close to hitting them in their own apartments.
One unit had three bullet holes in a wall. Those shots went through a couch and hit the TV inside the apartment.
Ted Daies said he was inside the apartment with his girlfriend and had no idea what was going on outside until his TV started sparking.
“I see some more stuff pop up from behind the couch. That's when we realize someone was shooting from outside,” Daies said. “I didn't really hear the shots at first, and all of a sudden I heard, 'Pop, pop.' I actually thought it was a TV doing that, but I saw bullet coming from the couch.”
In another building across the way, Trenesha McQueen was getting ready to go to bed when the shots rang out. Bullet holes can be seen just above her bed and in other parts of her room.
“I was terrified, because I have seizures. I was really like scared to go get back into the bed, because I didn't know if there was a gun or what they were doing, because there were police out there and they were still out there all night long,” McQueen said.
Many residents said police really had no choice but to fire, because an upset teen was holding what looked like a gun.
"They had to do their job they. They don't know if it's fake or real," Yahtz Cason said. "You have to know right from wrong, and everybody knows right from wrong.
Dylan Byrnes, a friend of Dentmond, said the teen was a sophomore at Gainesville High School.
"I didn't know he was depressed or anything like this. I wish I had seen him more. It makes me regret not seeing him," Byrnes said. "These past few days, I'd been wanting to see him. I just hadn't had the chance. I feel like if I was there for him, this wouldn't have happened."
The Sheriff's Office said deputies knew Dentmond was on juvenile probation for criminal mischief and theft charges. Investigators are still looking into the teen's background and trying to figure out where he got the replica AR-15.
The investigation is being taken over by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The ACSO Office of Professional Standards and GPD's Internal Affairs will also conduct an investigation into the incident once they receive the results from the FDLE investigation.
Protocol requires that the five ACSO deputies and four GPD officers who were involved be placed on temporary administrative duties until the investigations are concluded.
Law enforcement to answer questions
The Sheriff's Office and Gainesville police have scheduled a community meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday to ask questions and take comments about the shooting.
Sheriff Sadie Darnell and Police Chief Tony Jones will attend. The meeting will be facilitated by various community leaders and civic organizations to include Evelyn Foxx, Karl Anderson, Rosa Williams,
Rrepresentatives from the NAACP, the Gainesville Ministerial Alliance, the State Attorney's Office, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and representatives of the Alachua County Black on Black Crime Task Force.
"There’s been rumors floating around and different things," NAACP President Fox said. "We will get together and they’ll tell us what actually happened."
The meeting will be held at the Power House Family Worship Center at 7600 SW 24th Ave.