TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy is currently being taken to a local hospital after being hit in the back of the head with a hard object while monitoring protests at University Square Mall, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Chad Chronister told 8 On Your Side they believe the object was a brick.
Deputies say roughly 300 people are protesting within the mall’s parking lot. Some protesters have attempted to loot stores by breaking glass doors to get inside. News Channel 8’s Eagle 8 HD was able to catch rioters breaking into K&G Fashion Superstore.
The sheriff’s office said deputies have deployed canisters of gas in an effort to prevent protesters from getting into the mall.
“What you’re seeing now is no longer the protesters, now they’ve become the rioters and the looters,” said Sheriff Chronister during an interview with 8 On Your Side’s Rod Carter. “So when they started throwing rocks and bottles at the officers and the deputies, we gave the approval to go ahead and disperse some gas to try to push the crowd back and hopefully disperse the crowd because it can become ever-increasingly violent.”
HCSO has arrested three protesters thus far, according to a press release. Deputies found a gun on one person.
“While we support everyone’s right to assemble, rioting, looting and vandalizing is unacceptable. We will be on the streets as long as needed in order to keep the protesters and those around them safe, however, we are asking that everyone respect their fellow citizens and the property of others. Anything less is unacceptable,” Chronister said.
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