Family of man killed in Indian River County road-rage incident skeptical of shooter's story

Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 11:09:16-05

The family of a man shot dead in what investigators call a road-rage incident said the fatal shooting last week was unjustified.

As they sat in their Vero Beach home on Monday, Dennis Hicks’ family reflected on the final memory of their loved one.

His stepfather Timothy Nickell said Hicks, 38, stepped out to buy cold medicine for his stepdad last Thursday night. 

“Me and mother said ‘alright, just be careful, and come straight home.' He said ‘alright, I will.' And that was the last thing we’ve ever heard from him.”

Minutes later, Hicks was dead. 

A man called 911, saying he had a verbal altercation with Hicks at the intersection of State Road 60 and 53rd Avenue. An altercation he says Hicks initiated. 

“He said, 'I'm going to put a bullet in your a**,' ” the caller told the dispatcher. “He reached for something and I had my gun, and I opened fire on him.” 

Hicks’s stepdad and his mother Vera Thomason say it just doesn't add up.

“He’s never owned a gun, he’s never threatened nobody with a gun,” Thomason says. 

“That’s not Dennis," Nickell says. “And anybody that knows him will tell you that.” 

They question the demeanor of the caller. 

"If that man was such in fear for his life like he says he was, why was he so calm and collected on the 911 call?" Nickell says. 

Records show that Hicks had been arrested 8 times in Indian River County since 2005. 

His family acknowledged his troubled past but says he was turning things around and focusing on his two daughters.  

“My son was not no thug!” Thomason says. “No matter what, he didn’t deserve to be shot down.” 

The family says they still have few answers as they wait for the name of the person who shot Hicks, and for autopsy results. 

Tuesday morning the Indian River County Sheriff's Office identified the shooter as 29-year-old Timothy Daniel Sartori of Sebastian. No charges have been filed in the case but the investigation continues.