Deputy Shoots Fleeing Drug Suspect In Cocoa
By Space Coast Daily // August 4, 2012
Vehicle Tries To Run Him Over
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – A Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy shot a drug suspect during a surveillance operation early Saturday morning in Cocoa.
Brevard County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Tod Goodyear said at about 1 a.m. Saturday deputies were conducting an investigation regarding the sales of drugs in the area of 5000 Friday Road in Cocoa.
Goodyear said a deputy was acting in an undercover capacity while attempting to purchase drugs from two suspects within a vehicle.
As uniformed deputies approached to secure the scene the driver of the suspect vehicle disregarded the deputy’s commands and attempted to flee the scene.
The driver intentionally accelerated the vehicle in a dangerous manner striking Deputy Juan Vargas, placing him in fear and forcing him to take immediate action. Vargas discharged his firearm, striking the vehicle passenger.
Goodyear said the driver was then apprehended without further incident and the passenger was transported to Holmes Regional Medical Center after receiving one gunshot wound. The injury is not considered life threatening.
Deputy Vargas was taken to Viera Hospital where he was treated and released. He has been employed as a Deputy Sheriff with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office since 2005 and is currently assigned to the Tactical Team and is also a member of the SWAT Team.
The driver of the vehicle, 20-year-old, Nicholas Lechner of 300 Maplewood Lane in Cocoa, was arrested and charged with Aggravated Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer. He is currently being held in the Brevard County Jail Complex on a No Bond status.
Goodyear said the name of the vehicle’s passenger is not being identified at this time.
The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an independent and parallel investigation regarding the use of force.
Further charges relating to both the driver and passenger are pending the investigative findings, according to Goodyear.
“Our deputies are trained to respond to deadly situations and must make split second decisions in the worst situations to protect themselves and others,” said Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker. “Deputy Vargas is one of our finest and is highly respected by myself and his peers as an outstanding law enforcement officer. We are very thankful that Deputy Vargas was not seriously injured as a result of the suspect’s actions.”
Deputy Vargas has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. This is a common practice anytime a deputy is involved in a line-of-duty shooting.