HCSO deputy who shot gunman during welfare check justified

The Hillsborough State’s Attorney’s Office said it determined the deputy had a reasonable fear for her life at the time she used lethal force against the former officer.

RIVERVIEW, Fla. — The Hillsborough County deputy who fatally shot an elderly man in December 2021 while attempting to do a wellness check inside his home will not face criminal charges, according to the Hillsborough State’s Attorney’s Office.

After a “comprehensive review of all available evidence and applicable legal standards”, the office said the deputy’s use of lethal force was justified.

Authorities at the time of the shooting identified the law enforcement officer involved as Deputy Anastacia Castillo. Investigators say she arrived at the scene after a neighbor of Ronald Ehrich, 88, called first responders expressing concern for the older man’s well-being.

The neighbor said Ehrich’s garage door had been opened and she hadn’t seen him for at least two days. That’s when the state’s attorney’s office said Deputy Castillo began performing a welfare check at the home.

During the welfare check, Deputy Castillo repeatedly announced herself, repeatedly calling “Sheriff’s Office” as she moved around the house. Body camera footage also shows that she used her flashlight to try to make it clear that she was a uniformed deputy, according to Sheriff Chad Chronister.

The state’s attorney’s office said Ehrich emerged from a bedroom armed with a gun, prompting Deputy Castillo to retreat and hide in another room while continuing to announce himself as a sheriff’s deputy.

“Sir, drop that gun,” Chronister told Ehrich as she held up her service weapon.

“I don’t want to do this,” Castillo can be heard saying on video.

The state’s attorney’s office says Castillo ultimately ordered Ehrich to drop his gun more than a dozen times.

“Ehrich replied that he was ready to shoot him and continued walking down the hall towards the deputy. With his gun drawn, Ehrich walked through the door into the room where the deputy had been hiding” , wrote the SAO.

Castillo allegedly fired his gun three times, hitting Ehrich in the head and chest. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner determined that the 88-year-old died from the gunshot wounds.

“After our thorough analysis, we have determined that the facts and evidence of this incident prove that the deputy reasonably believed that she feared imminent death or grievous bodily harm when she used deadly force. nor the obligation to retreat,” the SAO wrote.

Deputy Castillo has worked with the agency since 2015 and has no internal background, officials say. Following the shooting, he was placed on paid administrative leave, which is protocol in these situations.

“There’s no other way to describe this than tragic,” Sheriff Chronister said at the time. “This deputy came in to save a life, expecting to find someone in a medical emergency. She did everything she could to defuse the situation before she was forced to fire her gun for her own safety.

The Tampa Police Department confirmed that Ehrich was a police officer in the 1970s. Years later, he served as a security guard at a now defunct bank.

There were questions regarding Ehrich’s hearing abilities at the time of the shooting; but the sheriff’s office said it was unable to release information about the man’s medical history.

A statement from Ehrich’s family, from the time of the shooting, can be found here.