SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — Dramatic Pinellas County Sheriff's Office dashcam and bodycam video released Wednesday shows the moments leading up to last week's deadly shooting of a man who police say pointed a weapon at deputies.
Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter during a news conference discussed the details of the Thursday shooting involving 43-year-old Robert Hubbard, saying the man exited his car in the area of Philippe Parkway and Enterprise Road and pointed a gun toward deputies.
Clearwater Police are leading this investigation by the region’s “Use of Deadly Force” task force which released video and other evidence from the shooting which ended in Safety Harbor.
“I would say that the evidence is overwhelming,” Slaughter said.
Video from a helicopter overhead, along with dashcam video, shows a sheriff's office cruiser performing a PIT maneuver to end an ongoing car chase.
Dashcam video shows Hubbard getting out of his car with a gun pointed toward law enforcement. Slaughter explains it was only until after the incident it was revealed to be a BB gun with no pellets inside.
"If you could tell the difference [between a BB gun and pistol] at the speed of which this thing unfolded and the distance to which these officers are, then you are going to have the eyesight of an eagle because that is next to impossible," Slaughter said.
Immediately after seeing the weapon, shots fire out from four deputies' guns, totaling up to 59 rounds, the chief said. Hubbard was hit multiple times by the bullets.
After Hubbard was shot and deemed to not be armed anymore, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says deputies started to perform life-saving measures on him. Hubbard died from his injuries.
"Had that firearm been real and this person wanted to shoot these deputies, they were at a significant disadvantage," Slaughter said. "There is no information that I've seen to this date that indicates whether these deputies had any other option other than to...use deadly force to defend themselves."
Investigators said they believe Hubbard carjacked somebody at gunpoint on June 29 — a day prior to the shooting — in Hillsborough County, in addition to stealing a golf cart, both at gunpoint. The stolen car was then linked to an attempted robbery outside of an Outback in Trinity in Pasco County.
By the next day, authorities learned the car was in Pinellas County. Deputies tried to stop the driver but Hubbard drove off, leading to a chase.
Investigators say deputies were warned by Hillsborough County officials that Hubbard was considered armed and dangerous, and he may have been planning a shootout with law enforcement.
"Based on his actions, he just needed to be stopped...whatever it would take to get him stopped," Gualtieri said.
Slaughter explains Hubbard has a previous criminal history and was already texting a family member the day of the shooting messages like, "Already hit a bank. I'm gone. Peace out," and, "No, I'm killin' all cops or whoever gets in my f***** way."
"You know, certainly, I am not here to villainize Mr. Hubbard either," Slaughter said. "He was a kid who has been depressed since he was 15. Unfortunately, got dragged down to drugs and alcohol. And which further exaggerated the depression. And from being in this business long enough I know there was a family behind that’s really struggling."
According to Gualtieri, three out of the four deputies involved in the shooting are already back to work after being cleared by an agency psychologist. One still was not feeling up to it just yet.
But the sheriff says he too is satisfied with what he’s seen so far.
“This is an example here, from everything that I’ve seen with it, it’s pretty much a textbook as to how it should be handled,” Gualtieri said.
The State Attorney's Office continues to work on its own parallel investigation to determine on its own whether this shooting was justifiable. Slaughter says at this point, they have seen nothing that would indicate it wasn't.