Deputies Fatally Shoot Driver
Car chase led to gunfire on University after ex-con
pointed a gun, officials say
By CHRISTINA E. SANCHEZ
SARASOTA -- Deputies shot and killed a 39-year-old Sarasota man Saturday
night following a chase that ended on busy University Parkway.
It all began when deputies tried to pull over Michael N. Brabazon for an
undisclosed traffic violation. He fled and led deputies on a chase that
began near Orange Avenue, according to sheriff's reports.
The exact route of the chase and speeds were not released, but deputies
chased Brabazon through the areas of Orange Avenue and Myrtle Street, 17th
Street and Tuttle Avenue and onto University Parkway, where the pursuit
ended in gunfire.
Deputies shot Brabazon about 10:40 p.m. after authorities say he pointed a
gun at one of the officers.
The area where the shooting happened on University Parkway is a busy roadway
lined with shopping plazas, and businesses such as Wal-Mart and Outback
Steakhouse, which draw crowds of customers.
David Beirau, who witnessed the shooting, was driving west on University
Parkway and slowed to see what was happening. He did not stop because he
feared getting hit by stray bullets.
Beirau said Brabazon's car spun out and deputies started shooting at him.
"They waited about 30 seconds and started shooting again," he said. "The guy
fell out of the car. He was shot in the car."
Thomas Aveni, a former New Jersey police officer and a law enforcement
trainer for the past 25 years, said police have a split second to decide
whether to shoot a suspect, even in a busy public setting.
Officers are focused on whether they face imminent death or injury, and not
on what is going on around them. Aveni said innocent bystanders are rarely
"Officers are always reacting to what the bad guy is doing and the level of
the threat at hand," said Aveni, who sits on the Police Policy Studies
Council. "If you ask them to do a 360-degree assessment of the area, it's an
Authorities have released few details of what happened in the moments
leading up to the shooting.
"All this is still under investigation," said Lt. Chuck Lesaltato, spokesman
for the sheriff's office.
Meanwhile, the six deputies involved, whose names were not released, have
been placed on routine paid administrative leave.
Lesaltato said Brabazon, of the 3400 block of Beekman Place, fled when
deputies tried to stop him for a traffic violation near Orange Avenue and
Myrtle Street. He would not identify the traffic infraction that prompted
deputies to try to stop Brabazon, who was released from prison six months
"We don't know why he didn't stop," Lesaltato said.
When he did not stop, deputies began the chase. Deputies put out a
tire-deflating device at 17th Street and Tuttle Avenue to stop Brabazon's
car, a 1992 white Chevrolet Lumina. Brabazon kept driving and headed east on
University Parkway. His car finally stopped near the Outback Steakhouse at
the busy intersection of University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road.
Brabazon pointed a handgun at one of the officers and deputies shot him,
Immediately after the shooting Saturday night, authorities told the media
that Brabazon got out of his car and started shooting. Lesaltato said Sunday
afternoon that the sheriff's office would not release whether Brabazon was
in the car when the six deputies shot him or whether Brabazon fired any
"We're not releasing if he exited or didn't exit the vehicle," Lesaltato
said. "That is still part of the investigation."
The shooting Saturday night is not the first time area law enforcement
officers have used force to stop suspects in busy areas.
In Bradenton in May 2006, police opened fire on the car of a possible drug
dealer outside a KFC restaurant at U.S. 301 and Sixth Avenue East, one of
Manatee County's busiest intersections. The suspected drug dealer drove at
and hit one of the officers with his car. Officers shot and injured the
dealer. A stray bullet also went into the restaurant, but no customers were
Police said they planned to review whether the shooting was justified, but
have yet to release a report.
Two months ago in Sarasota, police killed an unarmed man after a stun gun
failed to subdue him. The man who was resisting arrest kept charging toward
officers who said they felt threatened and shot him.
An internal review of that incident found police did nothing wrong.
At the University Parkway scene Saturday night, the rear windows of
Brabazon's car were blown out. His body lay just inches from the car as
deputies performed their investigation.
Brabazon was released from prison last summer after finishing a 13-year
prison sentence for armed burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Brabazon's criminal history dates back to 1986, when he was sentenced to two
years in prison for burglary of an occupied dwelling. He went to jail again
in 1988 and 1992 for similar charges and for grand theft, according to the
Florida Department of Corrections' records.
He registered with the Sarasota sheriff's office as a criminal offender on
June 1, Lesaltato said.
A woman who answered the phone at Brabazon's Beekman Place residence said
she did not want to comment.