St Johns County Sheriff David Shoar took time to explain facts that are known in the shooting death of 46 year-old Andrea Michelle Sheldon at the hands of four deputies late Saturday night.
None of the four officers involved has been on the job less than 8 or 9 years; the senior officer, Sgt. Glen Lappe, is a 22 year-veteran of the sheriff’s office. None of the men has ever been engaged in an officer-involved shooting incident. Deputies Michael Williams, Scott Stokes and Cameron Coward join Sgt. Lappe on paid administrative leave until the matter is resolved.
“We are in a difficult position at the moment,” Shoar said. “Because of the ongoing investigation, we are saying very little; while others can speculate and create the narrative — regardless of what actually occurred.”
Shoar did distribute a memorandum to his employees yesterday; because he knows that they are grieving for the loss of human life, the shooting victim’s husband and family, as well as the four officers who found themselves thrust into this life-or-death situation, and their families.
The sheriff lost his father, Larry Hoar, in December 2011. During his final days, Larry was under the care of Andrea Sheldon; the sheriff and his family became very close to Sheldon, who was a Registered Nurse with Community Hospice of Northeast Florida.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting — a move that will ensure an independent assessment of the tragedy; without conflicts of interests, personalities or politics.
Here are some facts that led deputies to the Sheldon home and surrounding woods Saturday evening.
1. Mrs. Sheldon’s husband fled from his home into the surrounding woods. After he fled, he called a command officer at his place of employment and reported that he fled his home because he and his spouse had had an argument that resulted in her “chasing” him with a “gun.” He also stated that he was “hiding” in the woods and the command officer reported that Sheldon was “crying” and “carrying on.” He also reported that Sheldon stated that he “could not take it anymore.”
2. Prior to our deputies’ arrival, we learned that in addition to Mrs. Sheldon possibly being armed, Mr. Sheldon himself was armed.
3. Mr. Sheldon reported to others that he was consuming intoxicants.
4. Deputies responded to locate Mr. Sheldon somewhere in the surrounding woods in order to make sure he was unharmed.
5. Deputies also responded to Mr. Sheldon’s home in order to check on his spouse who had allegedly “chased” after him with a “gun.”
6. During the shooting incident, Mr. Sheldon sent text messages to his spouse, one text stated, “done [don’t] shoot the cops on the property” and another stated, “are you having a good time with the cops.”
7. Andrea Sheldon exited the home with a shotgun and was repeatedly told by deputies to drop the weapon. She focused on one deputy in particular and when she pointed the shotgun directly at him, he and his colleagues opened fire, which neutralized the immediate threat.
8. The deputies performed first aid in an attempt to assist the woman who had just threatened them with a shotgun.
9. Mr. Sheldon was eventually found in the woods where he had built a fire. He was armed with two weapons and appeared to be under the influence of intoxicants.
During the course of the investigation, the law enforcement officers who were involved in the incident now struggle with the fact that they took the life of another human being in the course of their duties.
Sheldon’s friends, family and co-workers are free to issue statements and share perceptions with anyone; however, Shoar says “Often these folks, as well intentioned as they may be, possess no direct information concerning the incident.
There is one item I am certain about more than anything involving this case,” Shoar said. “The last thing the Deputies who responded to this incident wanted to do was use deadly force.”
In the event that in the coming days and weeks you have contact with the deputies involved in this incident, “please give them the support and encouragement that they so richly deserve”, Shoar said.