WARRINGTON, Fla. — A man whom deputies shot early Saturday as he tried to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car still hasn’t received any answers on why he was barraged with gunfire.
A neighbor saw someone reaching into Ceola Walker’s car at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday and called 911. Escambia County sheriff’s deputies responded as Roy Middleton, 60, was bent over, searching the car’s interior.
“Get your hands where I can see them,” Middleton said he heard someone say. Initially, he thought a neighbor was joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.
He then backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, he said. He later told his mother that he had his car keys in his hand with a metal flashlight attached.
In a press conference Monday afternoon, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said his officers reported that Middleton lunged out of the vehicle and spun toward them.
That’s when they opened fire.
“It was like a firing squad,” Middleton said Saturday from his hospital bed. “Bullets were flying everywhere.” He was shot in the leg, shattering bones in his left thigh, and was listed in good condition Monday.
Walker, 77, said she expects her son home by Wednesday though his injury will require a metal rod to be inserted in his leg.
“I’m just glad they didn’t hit me here or here,” Middleton said, pointing toward his head and chest. “My mother’s car is full of bullet holes though. My wife had to go and get a rental.”
In the driveway Monday of this house in a bay-front community of about 15,000 people between Pensacola Naval Air Station and Pensacola itself, Walker and her relatives still were assessing the damage: Her white Lincoln Town Car sat speckled with bullet holes. Seventeen shell casings were found in the carport, family members said.
“They have some explaining to do,” Walker said of the county officers. “I heard the shots. (The deputies) told me to close the door and not come out. They called an ambulance for him.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, standard procedure when any officer is involved in a shooting. The deputies, Jeremiah Meeks and Matthew White, have been placed on paid administrative leave.
A teenage girl who said she witnessed a portion of the incident said she never saw Middleton provoke the deputies: “He wasn’t belligerent or anything.”
Walker’s son-in-law, Frank Middleton, 66, described Roy Middleton as an easygoing guy.
“I’m not mad, but more disappointed in the system and in the training,” he said, adding that his own son is a member of the Pensacola Police Department. “They need training.”
Middleton, too, said he doesn’t understand how or why the incident escalated so quickly. He also said deputies never offered him an explanation or an apology.
“Even if they thought the car was stolen, all they had to do was run the license plate,” he said. “They would have seen that that car belonged there.”