RIVERVIEW, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating after an armed 88-year-old man from Riverview was killed during a standoff with a Hillsborough County deputy, Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
Authorities identified the man as 88-year-old Ronald Ehrich. According to the Tampa Police Department, Ehrich was a former police officer with the TPD, having served from 1955 to 1979.
Chronister said that around 7:26 a.m., the sheriff’s office got a call from a resident in the Copperfield neighborhood concerned for the wellbeing of her neighbor.
Deputy Anastacia Castillo went to meet with the concerned resident on Longcrest Drive, who said she was concerned since the exterior and interior door to the garage had been open for at least two days. During that time, the neighbor had not seen Ehrich, according to Chronister.
“The deputy immediately sprang into action, donned some latex gloves believing that there would be some type of medical episode and that she would have to render medical aid,” he said.
The sheriff said Castillo searched the home for Ehrich while announcing her presence. Eventually, she heard his voice asking who is there.
Body cam video showed Castillo asking if he was ok, but Ehrich exited the room with a gun.
“Put your gun down! It’s the sheriff’s office, sir!,” she said after seeing him.
The deputy is seen trying to de-escalate the situation by telling Ehrich she was a deputy and that she wanted to make sure he was ok.
“He opens up the door armed with his handgun,” Chronister explained. “She immediately begins to retreat within the residence, going back down the hallway. Again, at the same time, announcing who she is.”
Chronister said body cam video confirmed that the deputy even tried to show Ehrich that she was in uniform with her flashlight. All the while, Castillo pleaded for the man to drop the gun.
Eventually, the deputy got pinned in a guest bedroom while he searched for her. Chronister said Ehrich continued to approach the deputy with his gun,
In the video, Ehrich is seen telling Castillo to sit down in the open or he’d shoot her.
“Nobody is in trouble!” Castillo is seen yelling as Ehrich approached. “Sir, put the gun down!”
Chronister said the deputy shot him out of fear for her life, fatally wounding the 88-year-old.
Ehrich was later pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“This is tragic for the deputy sheriff, tragic for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, tragic for this elderly man and his family,” Chronister said.
Chronister said it would have been optimal for Castillo to wait for backup when investigating Ehrich’s situation, but that was not on her mind.
“In her mind, she thought she faced a medical situation, and in her mind, she was going to save a life,” he said.
According to the sheriff, Ehrich lived alone and had no criminal history. The sheriff’s office will speak to his family to see if there was any previous history of issues to see what contributed to the incident.
“That’s always something we ponder and wonder,” Chronister said. “What was his mindset today?”
The sheriff also said Castillo had no previous history of internal affairs issues. The body cam video from the incident is expected to be released soon.