LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The Lake County sheriff is talking publicly about a case of self-defense involving a deputy who shot and killed an innocent man during a suspect search at an apartment complex.
Andrew Scott was killed when deputies knocked on his door, unannounced, in the middle of the night. Investigators said Scott opened the door with a gun pointing at them, so they had to fire.
Sheriff Gary Borders said his deputies’ knock on doors all the time without announcing themselves and that a similar incident has never happened.
Borders said his heart goes out to Scott's family, and he plans to reach out to them after some time has passed. Borders also said he spoke briefly with Scott's girlfriend, who was with him the night Deputy Richard Sylvester shot Scott.
“She said she was OK, but you knew that she wasn't,” Borders said. “I could tell she was upset.”
But Scott's friends, wearing shirts calling for "Justice for Drew," chanted outside the sheriff's office, pushing for changes in policy and charges against Sylvester.
“If it was anyone else, it would be murder,” said friend Rebecca Menzie.
“I support people to be able to bear arms to defend themselves,” Borders said. “But, you know, there was no imminent threat here. We were knocking on the door.”
In the meantime, WFTV obtained recordings of dozens of conversations between police and deputies from that night.
The recordings raise questions about whether deputies were really looking for an attempted murder suspect the night Scott was killed, as they have claimed.
WFTV listened to the calls between deputies and police, where it sounded like they were looking for two men wanted for aggravated battery.
One of the men, Anthony Rodriguez, is out of jail on $2,000 bond, and the other man, Jonathan Brown, is locked up on $100,000 bond on a charge of attempted murder.
WFTV also learned that Brown was not originally wanted for attempted murder. The charges were upgraded after Lake County deputies shot and killed Scott.
"We're out with a battery at Marietta," said an officer during a call with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Borders said that because of safety reasons, the deputies did not announce who they were.
The sheriff said Scott put a gun in the deputy's face after he quickly opened the door, and that everything happened very fast.
When WFTV mentioned to Borders about Scott's friends resenting the mention of drugs being in the apartment, Borders said that the sheriff's office never claimed Scott was a drug dealer and they were just reporting the facts when asked what was found inside the apartment.
Borders said they don’t know why Scott pointed the gun at the deputy.
Borders also said the motorcycle found parked was hot and had dirt on it that matched dirt from a footprint, which was leading to Scott's door.
The law firm of prominent Orlando attorney Mark Nejame is representing Scott’s family.
WFTV listened to 90 dispatch transmissions that show authorities were after Brown and another man, following a street fight where Brown allegedly held a cinder block above the victim in a threatening way, but he never dropped it and not once before the deadly shooting did authorities mention anything about attempted murder.
"He's going to be a suspect in an aggravated assault that occurred, possibly more," said a Leesburg Police Department dispatcher.
"I am looking at aggravated battery, um, or at least aggravated assault," said a Leesburg police officer to Leesburg police dispatch.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said it appeared authorities inflated the charges to justify what happened.
"From the minute this case was reported, it's been a constant attempt to shift the blame, shift the focus away from the Sheriff's Office," said Sheaffer.
Rodriguez was also arrested for his role in the street fight, but was only charged with battery.
Brown will have a bond hearing on Friday, where his attorney will try to get his charges and bond reduced.