PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A man accused of shooting and killing a St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy was ordered to be held without bond in a first appearance in court this morning.
Eriese Alphonso Tisdale's bond hearing was at 8:30 a.m., before County Judge Thomas Walsh at the St. Lucie County Annex, 250 N.W. Country Club Drive in Port St. Lucie, from the St. Lucie County Jail via a two-way video link.
Tisdale is charged with first-degree premeditated murder, assault on an officer/firefighter/EMT, fleeing and eluding and possession of a weapon or ammunition by a felon in connection with the Thursday morning shooting death of Sgt. Gary Morales of the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.
Morales, 35, is a 13-year veteran of the department. He was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop in south Fort Pierce.
At 9:28 a.m ., deputies made a traffic stop on Naylor Terrace, just south of Edwards Road and south of Fort Pierce in unincorporated St. Lucie County.
At some point during the traffic stop the sheriff's office says Tisdale got out of his vehicle and shot Sgt. Morales who was in his patrol car, deputies said.
"It happened in a split second, you had a madman with a gun that was determined to shoot and kill this deputy," sheriff Mascara said.
"Sgt. Morales was shot multiple times," the sheriff said.
Deputies chased Tisdale to Oleander Avenue where they arrested him after he crashed his car.
Sgt. Morales was transported to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute where he was pronounced dead.
He is survived by a wife, children and a brother. The brother also is a deputy with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office
Earlier, across the county, a Port St. Lucie police officer was wounded in the leg when investigating a domestic disturbance at a home.
Morales' death is most perplexing, law enforcement officials said, recounting the violence that erupted seemingly without cause.
"We can't figure a reason" for the death of Morales, a 12-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Ken Mascara said at a news conference late Thursday afternoon. "That's what makes us all just scratch our heads."
"(Morales) was a bright young guy who was passionate about his job," the sheriff said. Morales is survived by a wife and two young daughters.
The arrests were made by law enforcement agencies in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties shortly after the shooting and after Tisdale crashed his car on Oleander Avenue as deputies pursued him. A gun was found there.
Tisdale has at least one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction.
He has two listed addresses: one a quarter mile away from the shooting scene, in an apartment complex in the 3200 block of Mura Drive. The second address is in Port St. Lucie in the 1000 block of Southwest Ingrassina Avenue.
On Thursday afternoon U.S. Marshals and sheriff's deputies were around the home on Mura Drive. They declined to comment.
"Our society is getting more violent," Mascara said. "At what point does an individual reach where he turns a gun on law enforcement?
"I don't know. It's a sad day ... You have a mad man with a gun that was determined to shoot and kill this deputy."
Mascara said he was listening to radio transmissions about the traffic stop.
"It was like hundreds of calls you hear.
"That vehicle attempted to elude him, only for a short period of time, and then stopped," Mascara said. "Sgt. Morales stopped behind him, called in his location and tag and it was that split second that the driver of that vehicle exited his vehicle, approached Sgt. Morales' vehicle and opened fire."
Mascara said Morales, who started work Thursday less than three hours earlier, didn't have time to get out of his vehicle or draw his weapon.
"He succumbed to his injuries right there on scene," Mascara said. "Another responding deputy arrived ... exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and the suspect got in a chase with our deputies and wrecked his vehicle on Oleander," the sheriff said.
Avon McCants, 42, said he was resting at his home near the scene of the shooting.
The gunfire made him "stay low ... and keep my head down."
Resident Leo Miller, 85, has lived in the neighborhood for 55 years.
"The things that go on nowadays, it doesn't shock me," he said.
Lee Davis, 43, was driving to work on Oleander Avenue when he apparently saw the shooter's vehicle heading west on King Orange Drive.
"As soon as he made the turn (on to Oleander Avenue) I saw the sheriff come up there, clip his tail end. He was turning south onto Oleander," Davis said.
Davis said the fleeing vehicle crashed into another vehicle and several law enforcement vehicles quickly arrived.
"There he was, jumping out of his car raising his hands up in the air, and then dropped to the ground," Davis said.
Services for Sgt. Gary Morales
Viewing at 10 a.m. and service at noon March 4 at Westside Baptist Church, 3361 S. Jenkins Rd., Fort Pierce
immediately following at Forest Hills Memorial Park, 2001 SW Murphy Rd., Palm City.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The Hundred Club of St. Lucie County is already assisting the family of Sgt. Gary Morales, the St. Lucie County deputy killed Thursday morning, a spokeswoman said Thursday afternoon.
The nonprofit charitable group provides financial support to families of law enforcement officers and other public safety officials including those who are injured or killed in the line of duty.
And the organization has contacted Morales' family which includes his wife and two young daughters, said Dorothy Shaw, the group's vice president. She works for the sheriff's office.
The organization can help with such things as funeral and family expenses including transportation and meals.
For more information, call Shaw at 772-462-3205 or at 462-3205.
Tax-deductible contributions may be mailed to the Hundred Club of St. Lucie County, c/o Tammy Schwab, St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, 4700 W. Midway Road, Fort Pierce, FL 34981-4825.
From U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Patrick E. Murphy made the following statement on the death of Sgt. Gary Morales, a 13-year veteran deputy with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, who was shot and killed in the line of duty this morning:
"My thoughts and prayers are with Sgt. Morales' family during this most difficult time. I also want to express my deepest condolences to his extended family at the Sheriff's Office and those in the St. Lucie community, who today lost a hero well before his time to a senseless act of violence.
Not only did Sgt. Morales valiantly serve his community through his 13 years of service with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, but he also proudly served our country as a member of the United States Air Force. Today, we are deeply saddened by the loss of such a true community hero."
Tcpalm.com reporters Will Greenlee & Elliott Jones contributed to this report