Sheriff: Deputy's experience, resolve saved his life

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey on Thursday said a deputy, who survived a deadly exchange of gunfire with a suspect earlier this week, is alive because of military experience and steel resolve

New details were released about the deputy-involved shooting that happened on Tuesday evening.  Ivey had nothing but praise for his deputy, but he is so disgusted about the dead man’s alleged actions, he didn’t want to utter his name.

In a written news release, the Sheriff's office identified the suspect as 45-year-old Erik Gebauer.  The Sheriffs Office said he had an extensive criminal history, including charges involving violence and violence towards police officers.

“This guy picked that battle.  My guy didn't go there and say, ‘We’re going to get into a gun fight.’  This guy picked that battle,” Sheriff Ivey said.

Deputy Paul Phillips did everything right, according to the sheriff, as he first tried to separate two feuding neighbors.  Investigators said Gebauer was so irate, he went for a gun.

“I think he got exactly what he wanted.  He wanted a violent exchange, and it didn’t end the way he anticipated,” Ivey added.

Deputy Phillips was shot three times; his left leg and shoulder were badly damaged.  He is in significant pain, Ivey said, but the outlook is good. The deputy has been through one surgery already, and other surgeries are in the future, as well as physical therapy. There is no timetable on when he might be released from the hospital.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of him,” Sheriff Ivey said.

Deputy Phillips is 35 years old and joined the Sheriff's Office in 2018. He was in the U.S. Army for 14 years and achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. He saw combat in Iraq.

“His being able to recognize the suspect charging the weapon, his tactical awareness, all of those things go hand-in-hand,” Ivey said.

Ivey is also praising the neighbor who we now know is the man who has been feeding feral cats, which reportedly prompted an altercation.  He is a veteran too, according to neighbors, and he dragged the wounded deputy out of the gunfire.  That's when the deputy then reloaded his gun and killed the suspect.

“I can’t thank him enough for going out to do everything he could to help our deputy,” Ivey said.

The Sheriff's Office has its own internal affairs division investigating the shooting.  The Florida Departmet of Law Enforcement will also investigate, which is standard proceducer when law enforcement officers are involved in a shooting incident.