Who was man killed in St. Johns County by fugitive task force?

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

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Erik Avanier - Reporter

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The 59-year-old man who died Tuesday night after he was shot multiple times by two U.S. marshals and a St. Johns County sheriff's deputy was on the run from New Hampshire, where he was just named fugitive of the week.

James Hobbs, 59, who was once a lawyer in Stratham, New Hampshire, was on the run after Amherst Police Department issued an arrest warrant last month on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 15. He was already on probation after a conviction for defrauding his former clients for more than $1 million in 2005.

WANTED: US Marshals flyer on James Benny Hobbs

The feds tracked him down the East Coast and a tip led them Tuesday afternoon to a vehicle with New Hampshire plates  at the Howard Johnson hotel on State Road 16 just off Interstate 95. A U.S. Marshals Task Force, backed by St. Johns County deputies, descended on the hotel and three officers knocked on his second-floor room just before 6 p.m.

After not complying with the officers' commands, "he made some very sudden moves that three officers all perceived to be a threat at the time," St. Johns County Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said.

Mulligan has not said how many times Hobbs was shot, but he did say that all three officers fired several rounds. Hobbs, who was the only person inside the hotel room, died at the scene. No law enforcement officers were injured. 

Investigators said it did not appear Hobbs had a weapon. Mulligan said there was no indication that Hobbs had any contact with law enforcement in St. Johns County before Tuesday night.

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The Sheriff's Office is the lead agency investigating the shooting, and what it learns will be turned over the the State Attorney's Office to determine if the shooting death was justifiable. Mulligan said there were several eyewitnesses and a considerable amount evidence gathered Tuesday night and that the investigation was continuing.

Deputy Toubaili, who has 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.

   Fugitives whose trails ended in NE Florida
  • 2009: Jacksonville murder suspect Justin McMillian hit multiple times in a shootout with Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and U.S. marshals. He survived, was tried and convicted.
  • 2011: New York attempted-murder suspect Barion Blake shot and killed in shootout with JSO and U.S. marshals.
  • 2012: New Jersey murder suspect Tino Cruz arrested by JSO and the U.S. marshals.
  • 2015: Matthew Dion, wanted for the murder of his parents in New Hampshire, was arrested by the U.S. marshals in Orange Park.
  • 2015: Philadelphia murder suspect Kahyree Reid arrested by the U.S. marshals and Clay County Sheriff's Office after a stakeout, short pursuit and crash.
  • 2017: Gregory Norwood was shot and arrested by the U.S. marshals in a pursuit of the man he was with, Tennessee assault suspect Melvin Owens. He was captured. 

Asked why Hobbs might have come to St. Johns County, Mulligan said it is not uncommon for fugitives on the run from other states to 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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