State finds use of force justified in Sanibel officer-involved shooting
The State Attorney’s Office has found the use of deadly force by two Sanibel police officers and a deputy sheriff justified in the 2016 officer-involved shooting on Sanibel.
The state announced today that it had completed the review of the shooting of Jon Webster Hay, 50, from Nov. 20, 2016. Assistant State Attorney Anthony Kunasek noted that the investigator, J. S. Pudry, determined that the officers were “justified in using deadly force to protect themselves and each other from the dangers Jon Hay posed.”
The decision means that no criminal charges will be filed against Sanibel Officers Christopher Dowaliby and Chad Maik, nor against Lee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Julie Weber.
“For the reasons set forth above, there is no basis for further action by this office,” Kunasek wrote to State Attorney Stephen Russell. “This matter should be closed.”
Sanibel Police Chief William Dalton was not surprised by the finding.
“I think it was expected,” he said. “I can’t think of a single time someone was shooting at a police officer close to 30 times, and the police officer defended themselves, that it wasn’t justified.”
He credited his officers for their response.
“I think they handled it very professionally and very competently,” Dalton said.
He noted that the incident could have been a lot worse.
“We were lucky more people weren’t hurt,” Dalton said. “It could have been more of our officers. It could have been civilians. We were lucky.”
At about 8 p.m. Nov. 20, 2016, Officer Jared Ciccone conducted a traffic stop in the area of 2330 Periwinkle Way. A gray van passed by and shot at him, striking him once in the upper body. Ciccone radioed that shots had been fired and provided a vehicle description, where the shots had come from and the direction the van was traveling. He also indicated that the driver was a man.
Dowaliby heard the call while at 979 E. Gulf Drive. He turned west onto Periwinkle Way and located a gray-green van traveling eastbound in the 1200 block. Dowaliby pursed the vehicle with his sirens and lights flashing until it stopped on Sand Castle Road.
Dowaliby saw a man, who was later identified as Hay, exit the van. Hay, of 1476 Sandcastle Road, Sanibel, fired several shots at Dowaliby with what looked like a rifle. Maik reported that he saw Hay exit the driver’s door and open fire with an AR-15 style rifle.
Both of the officers’ vehicles were struck by gunfire, with 28 spent cartridge cases found where Hay was shooting from. Seventeen spent cartridge cases were recovered near where the officers were.
According the SAO’s review of the incident, Dowaliby, Maik and Weber fired their duty firearms at Hay. Hay received a “penetrating gunshot wound to the left shoulder” and he survived the injury.
“Florida Statue allows for the justifiable use of deadly force ‘ if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony’,” the documents state.
In statements given to the investigator, the officers reported that commands were yelled for Hay to get out of the van and to show his hands. All three stated that Hay began shooting at them, “which caused them to return fire because they were in fear for their own lives and for the lives of the other two law enforcement officers.” The back-and-forth shooting continued for about one minute.
Hay then exited the van and ran to the front it of. He continued shooting at the officers before getting back into the vehicle and driving away. At about 8:40 p.m., 911 received a call from a man who stated that his son just returned home from an altercation with police and it appeared that he had been shot.
Within an hour, Hay was detained in the driveway of his Sanibel home. A .45-caliber pistol was recovered from a fanny pack around his waist. He was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital.
At the home, a .223-caliber rifle was found inside a duffle bag inside the truck of a car in the garage, as well as a .10 mm cartridge case. A loaded Glock .10 mm pistol was recovered from the nearby woods.
“Jon Hay committed four counts of attempted murder on a law enforcement officer, which is a forcible felony by Florida Statute,” Kunasek wrote of the shots fired at Ciccone, Dowaliby, Maik and Weber. “Mr. Hay’s actions presented a significant danger to each of the law enforcement officers that night, who were carrying out their duties.”
Hay’s actions put the officers in “reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm.”
“All three officers were justified in the use of deadly force in an attempt to stop the threat,” he wrote.
Hay was arrested and charged with four counts of attempted first-degree premeditated murder on law enforcement officer, along with one count each of resist officer flee elude law enforcement officer with lights siren active and weapon offense missile into dwelling vehicle building or aircraft.
On Aug. 23, a judge found him “incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness.”
Kunasek noted that the case is still pending in Lee County Circuit Court.
A competency status hearing for Hay is set for Feb. 15.