LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - There are growing concerns that three Lake County deputies were out of line when they charged into an apartment complex looking for a suspect and killed an innocent man instead.
On Monday night, friends of Andrew Scott laid flowers on the front step where he was shot and killed.
"Certainly, the police will be held accountable for this by way of a wrongful death suit," said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.
He believes it all has to do with the fact that the deputies did not identify themselves when they pounded on the victim's door in the middle of the night.
Officials said the incident started when deputies were looking for attempted murder suspect 31-year-old Jonathan Brown at the Blueberry Hill apartment complex on Ryan Drive in Leesburg.
According to authorities, Brown fled from deputies on a motorcycle, which they later found parked in front of Apartment 114. However, that was not the apartment in which Brown lived.
Three deputies were in uniform when they banged on Scott's door of Apartment 114 around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, believing Brown was inside.
Deputies said they admit they knocked on the wrong apartment door but said they had to open fire when 26-year-old Scott came out, armed with a gun.
Scott was shot and killed, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Originally, the Sheriff's Office said deputies had announced who they were.
But an email the Sheriff's Office sent Sunday revealed deputies "didn't announce and identify themselves" and called it a "minor detail."
And on Monday, the Sheriff's Office told WFTV's Kathi Belich that deputies didn't have to identify themselves at all.
A spokesman with the Sheriff's Office told Belich that all deputies saw when the door opened was the muzzle of a gun, and they did what they had to protect themselves.
But friends of Scott WFTV talked to said deputies are painting him in the wrong light.
A friend of Scott's called him a gentle giant and said he's the one who gave Scott the gun for his protection. He said Scott had just gotten home from working late when the deputies came to his door.
"They banged on the door. They didn't yell out, 'Lake County Sheriff!' They weren't being loud; vocal. The guy opened the door at 2 in the morning," said a witness who did not want to be identified.
"I saw him six hours before (the shooting), and he was fine," said one of Scott's friends. "When I heard about it I thought it was a joke."
Drugs and drug paraphernalia were found in Scott's home, deputies said.
K-9 Deputy Richard Sylvester, who shot and killed Scott, was wearing a black utility vest with the word "sheriff" on the front.
WFTV learned in the six weeks before Sunday's shooting, Sylvester has been working around 40 hours of overtime per two-week pay period.
WFTV asked if that could've been a factor.
"Regardless of how tired he was, regardless of how much overtime he had this week, or last week, or the last three weeks, or the last month, he took the action he was forced to take that given moment," said Lt. John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
No matter what, the Sheriff's Office said, Scott opened the door with the gun pointed at them, and at this point, there's no indication anyone said anything before Sylvester opened fire.
"This individual was in his home. He was at a place he had a right to be. He's awoken early in the morning by someone banging at his door; certainly he had a right to go to that door armed," said Sheaffer.
In some cases, officers don't identify themselves for the element of surprise if they don't want a suspect to get away. But the only way in or out of Scott's apartment is through the front door and the front windows.
"The bottom line is police went to the wrong house. This was an otherwise innocent person, and he was shot to death," said Sheaffer.
The officers could have surrounded the front and then identified themselves, especially since the officers did not actually see Brown go into the door.
"It was the middle of the night, so they felt it'd be more tactically advantageous to just knock on the door, and that's what we did," said Herrell.
"If the name of the law enforcement agency was announced, do you think this could've been prevented?" asked WFTV reporter Ryan Hughes.
"Well, based upon what we found inside his
home -- drugs, scales, pipes, baggies -- I can't answer that. I don't know what he thought," Herrell said.
Sylvester never used his dog to track the suspect. Investigators said Brown's motorcycle was still hot and was parked in front of the door.
They eventually caught Brown at his apartment, which is in the next building.
Sylvester is now on administrative leave. He was also involved in last week's deputy shooting behind an Advanced Auto Parts store in Eustis.
WFTV was told he's a police dog handler and that he witnessed two other deputies kill Gilberto Rivera.
The Sheriff's Office said Rivera had just killed the auto shop clerk he was stalking and wounded another employee.
The deputy who fired the shot that killed Rivera has been placed on administrative leave.
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