TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A person and a dog were seriously injured after deputies said a man shot them outside a Publix in Spring Hill on Tuesday. The suspected shooter is in custody.
The shooting happened Tuesday morning at the Publix located on 160 Mariner Boulevard – not far from the Pasco-Hernando County line. According to Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, several people called 911 around 10:15 a.m. to report shots fired behind the store.
Nienhuis said an extremely preliminary investigation revealed that the suspected shooter got into some sort of altercation in Pasco County before he went to Publix. The sheriff said the initial incident was either an aggravated assault or an attempted robbery that involved a firearm but no shots being fired.
According to Sheriff Nienhuis, the man then made his way to Publix.
“He interacted with an individual that was known to him and he knew that person was likely going to be behind Publix around this time of day,” he said.
The suspect went up to the person’s vehicle with a gun, according to Nienhuis, and started demanding money and “anything of value.”
“During that altercation, no shots were fired but right in the middle of that, our suspect heard a dog barking in a vehicle very close by – totally unrelated to either of the individuals involved in that altercation,” Nienhuis said.
According to the sheriff, the suspect then went over to the car with the barking dog and shot the animal as well as a person inside the car. Both were shot “more than once,” deputies said.
“The suspect then tried to find his original victim but couldn’t – the person had hidden,” the sheriff said.
He said the suspect left but then came back a short time later as responding deputies were helping the victims.
According to Nienhuis, deputies then “engaged” the suspect, who got out of his vehicle and put his hands up but then turned around to reach back in the vehicle.
“Fortunately, almost immediately, [he] had the wherewithal to turn back around and put his hands back up so the deputy was not forced to use deadly force in that case,” the sheriff said. “Although, it was very, very close to the point where the deputy did have to use deadly force.”
The man was then taken into custody. The sheriff’s office has not said what charges he will face yet.
Deputies said the dog and the person shot were completely innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The person who was shot was taken to a trauma center. The dog was stabilized at animal services and was taken to an emergency surgery center for animals.
Both the dog and the person are expected to fully recover, according to the sheriff’s office.
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