Lying in a hospital bed the night after he was shot by Escambia County sheriff’s deputies in his own front yard, Roy Middleton only had one question: Why?
Middleton, 60, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to get a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home. A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call.
Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, “Get your hands where I can see them.” He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.
He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire. “It was like a firing squad,” he said. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the incident Saturday. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, as is standard in deputy-involved shootings. The deputies, who have not been publicly identified, have been placed on paid administrative leave.
In Baptist Hospital and groggy on Saturday, Middleton said he would be in recovery for several weeks. His wounds are not life-threatening. “I’m just glad they didn’t hit me here or here,” he 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.”
The neighborhood where Middleton lives was quiet Saturday afternoon, and there was no evidence the shooting had even occurred. However, neighbors said only a few hours earlier the area had been congested with law enforcement vehicles and yellow crime scene tape. Several neighbors said they heard the commotion, but weren’t entirely sure why events unfolded the way they did. 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,“ she said. 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.”