Pinellas deputies justified by fatal shooting of gunman, prosecutor says

The fatal shooting by deputies of an armed man who broke into the home of an ex-girlfriend was justified, the Pinellas-Pasco district attorney’s office determined.

Four Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies shot Josue Arias, 32, of Tampa when Arias raised a handgun at them after entering the house at 2175 Indigo Drive in Clearwater, authorities said. Three MPs fired first, Arias fell and fired from the ground, and a fourth MP shot him with a rifle, authorities said.

Josue Arias, shown here in a 2011 prison reservation photo, was armed with a handgun when deputies shot him on September 7. [ Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office ]

The ruling that the September 7 shooting was justified came in a letter from State Attorney Bruce Bartlett to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. MPs were acting within the legal framework of their duties and Arias was committing the crimes of armed robbery, armed kidnapping and aggravated assault, according to the letter.

The investigation into the shooting was carried out by the Clearwater Police Department through the County Task Force on the Use of Lethal Force, formed last year to ensure shootings involving an agency of law enforcement is under investigation by an outside agency.

The letter from the state attorney’s office, released on Friday, provides details of the events leading up to the shooting.

Just after 3:30 a.m. on September 7, the woman who lives at the house, Joanne Mohr, woke up to an alert from her Ring doorbell. She got out of bed, leaving her fiancé, John Michael Jancek, III, still asleep.

Mohr saw Arias, her ex-boyfriend, standing in the doorway with a gun. Mohr grabbed his own pistol, ran to his office, and called 911. Jancek woke up when he heard a window shatter on a sliding glass door. He came out to see Arias walking around the house with a gun.

“One or all of us are going to die tonight,” Arias heard Mohr say.

Mohr remained on the 911 call as MPs dispatched, allowing them to hear what was going on inside.

After the deputies arrived, Mohr escaped his office, got out and put down his gun, leaving the phone connected inside.

For the next 40 minutes, Jancek and Arias stayed inside the house. Over the phone, MPs overheard Arias say, “I will not be going back to jail.”

Arias served nearly five years for burglary of an occupied home or transportation, and for making, selling or delivering marijuana, according to state corrections records.

Arias then grabbed Jancek and led him through the house to the front door while holding a gun to Jancek’s head. Arias told Jancek to leave, and Jancek ran to a group of MPs who took him to safety.

The MPs noticed that Arias was looking towards a distinct group of MPs who had settled next to and behind the house. After continuous orders to get out, Arias got out and started pacing. He went inside, then came out smoking a cigarette and still holding a gun.

Arias looked at the deputies at the side of the house and walked over to them. They shouted at him again to put down his gun. Instead, he continued to walk towards them and raised his gun.

Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives

Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives

Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter

You’ll get a keepsake of the residents of Tampa Bay we have lost, including heartwarming and fun details about their lives, every Tuesday.

You are all registered!

Want more of our free weekly newsletters delivered to your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

MPs William Byrd, Christian Miller and Cameron Frame shot Arias and he fell to the ground, according to the letter. Arias shot the deputies and they continued to shoot. Another deputy, Claudio Dimundo, came around the corner of the house and fired two AR-15 rifles at Arias.