Deputies shoot 79-year-old man at gas station after threats

Posted at 10:15 AM, Mar 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-21 10:15:01-04

**Warning: explicit language and graphic content in video.**

HUDSON, Fla. (AP) -- Florida deputies shot and wounded a 79-year-old man at a gas station Saturday after they said he made threats about killing others, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said a deputy was pumping gas when James Zambrotto approached him and began rambling, saying he wanted to drive his car into the gas pumps to cause an explosion. The deputy talked to the man, offering to get a cup of coffee together in an effort to deescalate the situation while he called for backup, Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a press conference.

The sheriff's office released an edited 26 1/2-minute video of the encounter, captured from several deputies' cameras. It shows Zambrotto in his car, refusing to get out. He told deputies he was a military veteran from Port Richey who had family nearby.

**Warning: explicit language and graphic content in video.**

Deputies shoot 79-year-old man at gas station after threats

Zambrotto, who was hospitalized in intensive care, does not have any documented mental illnesses or criminal interaction with Pasco deputies, the sheriff's office said.

At one point, he said he thought people were listening to him and made vague statements about hurting others.

"You guys (police) keep doing the same thing," Zambrotto told the deputy. "You're saying I'm a nut, I'm going to try to hurt somebody. I'm not trying to hurt nobody."

The Tampa Bay Times reported the sheriff's office brought in a hostage negotiator who spoke with the elderly man for about 40 minutes. As they talked, deputies placed tire-deflation spikes around his car and parked a sheriff's vehicle in front of him so he could not drive away.

The video show the deputy repeatedly questioning Zambrotto who appears overwhelmed and confused at times.

"Sir, you're trying to make me say a whole bunch of things," the man said at one point.

Deputies surrounded the car as they tried to talk the man down, trying to break the front two windows of the car. The sheriff said a deputy saw Zambrotto reach for a gun. Two deputies fired their weapons.

"Please do not do this to me. I do not want to live with this," the deputy said, pleading for the man to put his hands on the steering wheel.

A second deputy pepper sprayed Zambrotto through the car's open left rear window. Then the man accelerated forward, ramming the sheriff's vehicle parked in front of him.

Nocco said the incident showed how quickly a situation can turn violent. A deputy stopping for gas turns "into an incident where somebody gets shot."