Man wanted in New Hampshire child sex crime shot, killed by officers

2 US marshals, St. Johns deputy shoot fugitive at hotel just off I-95

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Erik Avanier - Reporter

New Hampshire booking photo of James Hobbs, who was shot and killed by law enforcement Tuesday evening at the Howard Johnson hotel near the St. Augustine outlet mall.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - A man wanted for arrest in New Hampshire for aggravated battery of a child was shot and killed by federal and county law enforcement officers early Tuesday evening at a hotel on State Road 16, just off Interstate 95 near the St. Augustine outlet mall, authorities said.

St. Johns County sheriff's deputies were assisting a U.S. Marshals Service task force unit to serve an arrest warrant about 6 p.m. at a Howard Johnson hotel.

Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said they were attempting to arrest James Hobbs, 59, from Stratham, New Hampshire, who was wanted by the Amherst Police Department for aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 15.

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News4Jax has learned that Hobbs, whose nickname is "The Whip," was once an attorney and on probation for a conviction for stealing large amounts of money from several of his former clients.

Mulligan said two marshals and St. Johns Deputy M. Toubaili encountered Hobbs at the door of a second-floor hotel room, where he refused to comply with commands. Mulligan said when Hobbs took an action that prompted all three law enforcement officers to fire multiple times.

"He made some very sudden moves that three officers all perceived to be a threat at the time," Mulligan said.

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Mulligan said Hobbs was apparently tracked down the East Coast by marshals and found his vehicle at the hotel. Mulligan said there was no indication that Hobbs had any contact with law enforcement in St. Johns County before Tuesday night.

Although investigators said Hobbs did not have a weapon, News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said it appears officers were left with no choice but to use deadly force.

"It's not like it was just one officer," Smith said. "Several officers fired. So he did something in a very aggressive way to cause the officers to defend themselves."

Smith said it appears law enforcement had multiple ways of tracking him to the hotel.

"His name may have come up when he registered here. They could have tracked him by his cellphone," Smith said. "Some family members of friends may have informed law enforcement that he was here if he contacted someone he trusted and provided that information."

Hobbs was the only person inside the hotel room and no law enforcement officers were injured. 
Victims' advocates were made available for motel guests.

The Sheriff's Office is the lead agency investigating the shooting, and what they learn will be turned over the the State Attorney's Office. Mulligan said there were several eyewitnesses and a considerable amount evidence gathered Tuesday night. 

Deputy Toubaili, who had been with the Sheriff's Office since May 2014, will remain on administrative leave during the investigation, which is standard operating procedure. This was his first officer-involved shooting.

Asked why Hobbs might have come to St. Johns County, Mulligan said it is not uncommon fugitives on the run from other states be found in the community. A homicide suspect from another state was recently arrested walking on the beach.

"Our (SR-)16 and I-95 hub is a very busy area. There's a lot of transient traffic that comes through there," Mulligan said. "It is not unheard of for criminals from other states to end up in Florida."

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