SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — The State Attorney’s Office (SAO) released the findings of their investigation into a shooting involving four Pinellas County deputies that left a man dead in Safety Harbor on June 30.
State Attorney Bruce Bartlett sent a letter to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office stating that the deputies were acting “in performance of their legal duties” when they shot and killed Robert Hubbard, 43, and the death is considered “a justifiable homicide” under Florida law.
According to the SAO report, Hubbard’s cousin contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office the day before the shooting after receiving several concerning Facebook messages from Hubbard, saying he intended to shoot police officers.
“Gonna be a nice shootout,” One message read. “‘Cause I’m strapped and pissed.”
“I’m killin’ cops or whoever gets in my f—— way,” Another message said. “Ain’t gonna make it. I’m dead”.
After reviewing the messages, a Hillsborough deputy determined there was no “credible, imminent threat”.
At 4:34 p.m., roughly half an hour after Hubbard’s final message was sent, the sheriff’s office responded to a report of a golf cart stolen from an apartment complex by an armed man. A witness told deputies the man brandished a handgun at him.
A driver later reported a man rolling up to her car in a golf cart and demanding she get out of it. She put the the car in reverse and drove away after he reportedly pulled out a handgun. A second carjacking attempt on a different driver was successful and the man, later identified as Hubbard, drove off with a Toyota Corolla. Hillsborough deputies then obtained a warrant for Hubbard’s arrest.
Deputies said the stolen Corolla was spotted that evening at Walmart and Outback Steakhouse. Hubbard was accused of waving a gun around in the Walmart parking lot and then attempting to rob the restaurant at gunpoint.
On June 30 at around 2 p.m., a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s license plate scanner detected the stolen Corolla. Deputies said they spent the next 80 minutes in an “on-again-off-again” pursuit with Hubbard as he reportedly drove recklessly, making sudden U-turns, ignoring traffic signals and driving on the sidewalk.
Deputies deflated all four of Hubbard’s tires using a stop stick and utilized a PIT maneuver to bring the car to a stop.
The SAO’s investigation determined Hubbard got out of the car, pointed his gun at deputies and began moving towards one of the patrol cars. The deputy inside the car, Dep. Smith, said he feared for his life and fired through his windshield at Hubbard, who took “several steps towards the cruiser”. The other deputies also shot at Hubbard.
Deputies said Hubbard then ran away, still holding the gun, as they continued shooting at him. He eventually dropped the gun and collapsed.
Investigators determined that the gunfire lasted approximately eight seconds. Dispatch acknowledged “shots fired” at 3:20 p.m. Based on the count of ammunition left in the deputies’ guns, 55 to 59 rounds were fired, with five hitting Hubbard.
The handgun, found about four feet away from Hubbard’s body, was found to be a BB gun with no BBs in its magazine.
“Hubbard’s presentation of the replica BB handgun to the deputies was consistent with the aiming and firing of a real firearm. The distance the deputies perceived the replica BB handgun from made it impossible to quickly determine if the handgun was real,” State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said. “The replica BB handgun displayed by Hubbard was sufficiently like in color, size, shape, and other characteristics as a real firearm for each deputy to reasonably perceive that said replica BB handgun was a real firearm.”
An autopsy found five bullet wounds on Hubbard’s body. A toxicology report revealed Hubbard had clonazepam, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of his death.
The following deputies were reported to have shot Hubbard:
- Deputy Robert Smith – Age: 27 – Date of hire: 11/28/2016
- Deputy Daniel Abbot- Age: 37 – Date of hire: 12/17/2018
- Corporal Anthony Hellstern – Age: 33 – Date of hire: 01/06/2013
- Detective Damarcus Flournoy – Age: 30 – Date of Hire: 04/24/2017