DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - “Are all of our deputies okay? I’m on my way out there, that’s my number one concern. His number one concern is to hold a press conference 'Here's our pursuit policy, you’ll see we weren’t in pursuit!' Out of touch and clueless.”
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood had some strong words about DeLand's police chief after a news conference on Tuesday following a deadly deputy-involved shooting. It began as an attempted traffic stop by a DeLand police officer. The suspect fled and was not pursued by the DeLand officer, per agency policy.
“I just wanted it to be clear, we were not involved in that pursuit by any stretch of the imagination,” DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger emphasized.
Volusia County deputies eventually caught up with the suspect, Gregory Howe, and pursued to his residence in Deltona where they shot him after they said he pulled out an AK-47-type weapon and pointed it at them.
Releasing new body camera from the initial stop, the DeLand officer said Howe appeared to be reaching for something in the car door jam.Howe was being written up for not wearing a seat belt when it was learned he was driving with a suspended license. When he was advised to get out of his vehicle, Howe sped away from the scene.
Chief Umberger said the nature of the stop did not warrant a chase, in accordance with his department's policy, so they did not follow.
“I'm not disparaging the Volusia County Sheriff's Office in any way, but what I’m saying is it’s important what the nature of the stop was,” he said.
Sheriff Chitwood responded by calling the chief a "lightweight."
“A lightweight is someone who is focused on the minutia, instead of the big picture,” he told FOX 35 News.
The Sheriff's Office posted pictures of the gun Howe allegedly pointed and possibly fired at deputies during their final confrontation.
The sheriff clarified that he has no issue with the no-chase policy itself.
“We have a restrictive policy. When I was in Dayton,a we had a restrictive policy, I get that," Chitwood said. "You want to hold a press conference amid all this and say DeLand wasn’t in pursuit? How about the welfare of my deputies, or your officers? That was an ambush scenario."