JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An 18-year-old man in Mandarin who pointed what turned out to be a revolver replica BB gun at a police officer was shot and killed Wednesday night, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
The man, Dylan Parker Thomas, matched the description of an armed robbery suspect from a nearby incident earlier in the night, police said.
Officer H.A. Berry, a 10-year veteran with JSO, was not injured in the shooting, which unfolded at the St. Augustine at the Lake Apartment complex on Old St. Augustine Road, police said.
According to investigators, the incident began at 9 p.m. Wednesday after a female Bite Squad employee made a delivery to an apartment complex on Losco Road. Police said that after she made the delivery and returned to her vehicle, a man armed with a what appeared to be a handgun approached her demanding money.
She complied, but the man, later identified as Thomas, said, "I'm not in it for the money," and handed the money back before running away, JSO Assistant Chief Scott Dingee said Thursday.
At a nearby Walmart, the driver got the attention of an off-duty officer working security at the store and reported the robbery, giving a detailed description of the man, including distinctive clothing, Dingee said.
A 'be on the lookout' was issued for the robber, and around 9:30 p.m., while driving through the St. Augustine at the Lake apartment complex, Berry spotted a man matching the description, including the distinctive clothing.
When Berry, who was wearing a full police uniform and driving a marked cruiser, tried to make contact with Thomas, the 18-year-old ran, pointing what appeared to be a handgun in Berry's direction, Dingee said. He said that's when Berry fired two shots from his department issued handgun.
Thomas ran away, but was found in the breezeway of a nearby building with a gunshot wound to the chest. Officers and a registered nurse who lives in the area rendered aid until paramedics arrived, but Thomas died at the scene.
"Through the bushes, I could see the suspect laying on the ground," said David Woods, a resident at the apartment complex.
Police said Thomas, who did not live at the apartment complex where he was shot, had been arrested previously on charges of a minor dealing in stolen property, armed burglary and possession of a firearm by a minor.
Members of the State Attorney's Office and Medical Examiner's Office are assisting in the investigation.
JSO is asking anyone who witnessed the robbery or the shooting to call police. Officers are also actively looking for surveillance video.
Berry was not wearing a body camera, Dingee said. He was placed on administrative leave, following protocol for police-involved shootings.
Residents said they have noticed more crime in the area, but they were surprised to hear about what happened in their own community.
"That's scary," Candace Jennings said. "It's said. It brings tears to my eyes, honestly."
A pizza deliveryman told News4Jax the incident has put him and many of his co-workers who also deliver food on edge.
“We come here all the time, and it’s scaring us. Just the reality that anytime we could be robbed by someone. These people want to get a leg up, and they want to do it in an unjust way, and it affects all of us,” Aaron Thomason said. "The manager just told us we have to keep all of our cash in the lockers. Don’t have any cash on us. We’re trying to be as safe as we can.”
Bite Squad issued a statement Thursday saying the company was aware of the situation.
"The safety of our drivers is a top priority for Bite Squad," the company said, directing all questions to JSO.
2 police shootings in 1 day
The shooting was the second shooting involving a Jacksonville police officer in less than 12 hours.
Earlier in the day, a man who fired a handgun at two Jacksonville officers was shot and killed by police at a Motel 6 on Dunn Avenue, not far from Interstate 95, JSO said.
The officer who fired the fatal shots was not hit by gunfire but was hospitalized with abrasions to his knees and was released Wednesday.
When asked about how unusual it is to have two police-involved shootings in the same day, Dingee said, "I can say for us, it is fairly rare. I can't say it's never happened. It is fairly rare. Today has been a very unusual day -- absolutely."
There have been five police shootings in 2018 by a JSO officer, including the two Wednesday.