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St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office points to retaliatory shootings for increase in violence

No deputies injured after 13 shots randomly fired by passenger in vehicle
St. Lucie County deputies were fired upon after attempting a traffic stop in the 1200 block of N. 17th Street in Fort Pierce on Dec. 7, 2022.
Posted at 12:43 PM, Dec 08, 2022

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said that two deputies were unhurt after they were fired upon while following a vehicle in Fort Pierce on Wednesday night.

Sheriff Ken Mascara held a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the shooting, where the shooter fired at least 13 bullets.

The shooting happened in the 1200 block of N. 17th Street in Fort Pierce at about 6:45 p.m.

The sheriff said they had marked and unmarked vehicles in an area that deputies deemed as "high risk" on Wednesday night.

"This month we put together a plan that we were going to start targeting these areas that we identified as high risk," Mascara said.

Two deputies that were in an unmarked car noticed a vehicle that piqued their interest that looked similar to a vehicle that they were looking for.

As the detectives traveled westbound on Avenue K, the vehicle they attempted to identify kept speeding up.

St. Lucie County deputies were fired upon after attempting a traffic stop in the 1200 block of N. 17th Street in Fort Pierce on Dec. 7, 2022.
St. Lucie County deputies were fired upon after attempting a traffic stop in the 1200 block of N. 17th Street in Fort Pierce on Dec. 7, 2022.

That vehicle then approached the intersection of 17th Street, which dead ends into the Lincoln Park Academy school parking lot.

Mascara said there were people in their front yards and one person was walking along the sidewalk as this unfolded.

The vehicle that the deputies were following turned right on 17th Street. As it did, a passenger in the vehicle leaned out and shot at least 13 bullets in the direction of "we don't know where," according to the sheriff.

"Our deputies assumed it was at them," Mascara said.

Body camera video recorded by the deputies was played during Thursday's news conference, which had audio of the bullets whizzing by the deputies.

The deputies left their vehicle and then saw a person on the sidewalk running from them. That person, they presumed, was part of the shooting.

The sheriff said the man on the sidewalk, who had a cellphone, ran when deputies told him to stop, but they later realized that person was also a victim of the shooting.

"When there's a tremendous amount of gunfire, you're trying to identify who's doing it, where is it going, who's the intended target?" Mascara said.

Sheriff Ken Mascara shares details about a shooting that may have targeted deputies in Fort Pierce on Dec. 7, 2022.
Sheriff Ken Mascara shares details about a shooting that may have targeted deputies in Fort Pierce on Dec. 7, 2022.

Mascara said a deputy fired one shot toward the person on the sidewalk, but no one was hit by gunfire.

"In the darkness of night, and all the chaos going on, [the phone] resembled a gun," Mascara said. "When that person turned to our deputies, that's why our deputies fired."

The two deputies were not hurt but have been put on paid administrative leave.

Mascara said they have shared the description of the vehicle with other agencies but did not offer those details to the public. He said they are committed to finding who was inside the car that fired the 13 shots.

"We're going to put all of our efforts into stopping this random shooting in our community," Mascara said.

The sheriff pointed to the fatal shooting of Fort Pierce resident Johnny Green in Indiantown in September, which they believe is a catalyst for an increase in gun violence on the Treasure Coast.

Mascara called the increase in shootings a result of "gang retaliation."

"They don't believe in the criminal justice system," Mascara said. "They believe in street justice, and that’s the way thugs work."

Across St. Lucie County, there have been more than 220 cases involving shootings since August.