Sheriff says slain man took detective’s gun
When Deputy Manuel Gonzalez answered a call for backup on Tuesday, this is what he saw: Detective Jack Thompson and another man struggling in the back of a Jeep Cherokee.
He told investigators he heard Thompson yell, “Shoot him! He has my gun!”
The deputy fired once, hitting Bobby Earl Driggers, the man with whom Thompson had been struggling. Driggers, 50, was taken by ambulance to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.
The sheriff’s office said the shooting happened after investigators received a tip that Driggers was at 904 W. Wheeler Road near Seffner on Tuesday afternoon.
Driggers had been on the sheriff’s office radar for weeks and was suspected in a recent auto theft and for fraudulent use of a credit card, the sheriff’s office said.
When Thompson pulled up to the home about 1:15 p.m., he saw Driggers outside. Thompson called for backup and walked up to Driggers.
They stood next to a red Jeep Cherokee parked in the front yard. Thompson told Driggers he wanted to talk, the sheriff’s office said.
As they talked, Driggers suddenly reached for Thompson’s .40-caliber Glock handgun and holster, according to the sheriff’s office. The two men fought and fell into the back seat of the sport utility vehicle, said Larry McKinnon, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
Driggers pulled off Thompson’s holster and was trying to remove the gun when Gonzalez arrived and shot Driggers, of Seffner, investigators said.
Neither deputy was injured. Thompson, 46, is an 18-year veteran. Gonzalez, 37, is a 16-year veteran.
Both have been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues, standard practice when a deputy is involved in a shooting.
Driggers has an extensive criminal record dating back to 1993. In Kansas, he was charged with murder and pleaded to a lesser armed robbery charge, McKinnon said.
He later was charged with attempted murder in another case, said McKinnon, who didn’t have details.
Since 2003, Driggers had been convicted of eight felony charges in Florida, including armed robbery, grand theft, burglary and aggravated assault with a firearm, McKinnon said.
Driggers knew the people living at 904 W. Wheeler Road, McKinnon said. He said Driggers had visited the house but the people there asked him to leave. He did but then returned, which was when Thompson saw him, the sheriff’s office said.
“The biggest question is why this guy was out here today,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
Thompson took a safe and guarded approach with Driggers because he was alone and confronting a known violent criminal, McKinnon said. He tried to start a conversation as he waited for backup and didn’t try to make a solo arrest, he said.
“It’s always better to initiate a conversation until you can get sufficient help to get a person into custody,” McKinnon said.