PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — A deputy is recovering after being shot and an MS-13 gang member was shot and killed by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies during a Palm Beach County Narcotic Task Force operation in Palm Beach Gardens, according to Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.
The deputy was shot in the cheekbone and as of Thursday night, was in surgery at St. Mary’s Medical Center. He is expected to undergo a second surgery Friday, but he is expected to recover. The bullet is lodged in his bone, but he is in stable condition.
Thursday was his 29th birthday.
“Happy birthday to him,” Bradshaw said in a news conference late Thursday night. “He’s a lucky man.”
Bradshaw says it happened around 8 p.m. Thursday, the tactical team had been tracking this known gang member with a criminal past for months.
The sheriff says once the suspect pulled into a parking spot away from the public, deputies in tactical gear with “SHERIFF” across their chests approached his car, yelling to identify themselves as deputies. Bradshaw says once that happened, the suspect opened fire on the deputies, hitting one in the cheek.
The 32-year-old suspect, whose name has not been released, was able to get two to three shots off from a revolver, Bradshaw says. The other members of the tactical team then returned fire, killing the suspect, with the revolver still in his right hand.
“It was almost unheard of 20 years ago, it was like everybody was in awe that a law enforcement officer was killed. Now, it’s commonplace and it’s got to stop,” Bradshaw said.
“You just heard that unmistakable sound, bop, bop, bop, bop, bop. Enough to where it sounds like fireworks but enough to know it’s that gunshot,” said Ryan Wade, who lives nearby. “Just 20 cop cars come streaking out, the ambulance.”
Bradshaw says the gang member lived in the apartment complex and they had search warrants for his residence and car. Bradshaw says the gang member had served time previously on a firearm charge and they had four warrants for his arrest, all involving drugs that they were preparing to serve on the MS-13 gang member.
“(MS-13) is not the biggest (presence in Palm Beach County), but it’s not the smallest either. It’s something we’ve been working on. And this is one of the pieces of the puzzle we’ve been working on to get into this gang to try to find out what they’re doing because they’re trying to get a stronghold and we’re not going to let them,” Bradshaw said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, detectives and internal affairs continued the investigation into the night, recreating the shooting. Once that is done, investigators will search the dead suspect’s car and residence.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and PBSO Violent Crimes Division also arrived on scene to investigate.
The deputy’s family has been notified but his name has not been released.
All PBSO employees involved in the shooting are currently on administrative leave with pay, which is standard department protocol.