Martin County deputy claims self-defense in interview following deadly shooting

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said his deputy who shot and killed an Indiantown man was in fear for his life.

On Friday, Deputy John Welliever gave his official statement to detectives with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney.

On Monday, three days after Welliever gave his statement, Snyder said he could not delve into the details of what Welliever revealed in his 90-minute interview, aside from the fact the deputy said he acted in self-defense.

Snyder said Welliever shot Jerry Richardson, a homeless man from Indiantown, five times from an "extremely close proximity."

Snyder also said Welliever had no previous interactions with Richardson, though Richardson was known to deputies who are regularly assigned to Indiantown.

Welliever typically works at the Martin County Courthouse and picked up an overtime shift the night he shot Richardson.

Richardson was known to carry a machete with him, according to Indiantown residents, which is legal.

Snyder believes that machete may have had something to do with Welliever’s fear for his safety.

“Deputy Welliever maintained that he fired his weapon in self defense, that Jerry Richardson was armed with a large machete and that Deputy Welliever feared for his life and believed there was no alternative to the use of deadly force,” Snyder said.

Snyder said Welliever also addressed a scratch on the front of his neck during his statement, but Snyder said he could not go into details about whether Welliever got the scratch from Richardson, or if it had nothing to do with Richardson.

Snyder also said he still stands behind giving the deputy a week to prepare his statement.

“It’s tough. It’s tough to remember exactly what happened. There’s so much adrenaline. We’ve come to understand that sometimes a spontaneous statement is not an accurate statement and what we really want is accuracy,” said Snyder.    

Welliever is on paid leave, which is standard while there is an active investigation.

Snyder said Welliever could return to work before a grand jury convenes.

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