Suspect fatally shot after 'choking out' deputy, Pasco sheriff says

Aaron Mesmer reports

- A man was killed by an off-duty Pasco County detention deputy Friday, following a wild scene that investigators said involved a domestic dispute, a stolen a beverage delivery truck and a violent fight.

The ordeal started at around 5 a.m. when a 911 caller told dispatchers that a man was following her along the Pasco-Hernando border.

Hernando County deputies said they tracked down Ronald Robbibaro, 30, who was out of his car and told them he was looking for a Bible he had lost. Hernando investigators said they allowed him to leave because, at that point, he hadn't broken any laws and didn't meet the qualifications to be Baker Acted.

Soon after, there was a crash and a witness reported seeing someone, later identified as Robbibaro, run into a Coca Cola facility on U.S. 41.  Workers at the business said Robbibaro hopped into a running truck and pulled away down U.S. 41, smashing through the gate.

When an off-duty detention deputy spotted the truck driving erratically, he started following it in his personal vehicle.  At some point Robbibaro slammed on the truck's brakes and backed over the hood of the deputy's yellow Mustang, then took off.

The truck continued southbound on U.S. 41 and came across another off-duty detention deputy, also driving his personal vehicle.  The Coca-Cola truck hit the front of the deputy's pickup and both vehicles veered off the road.

"The detention deputy was in full uniform...the suspect and detention deputy jump out of their vehicle at the same time," said Sheriff Chris Nocco. "At some point during this interaction, the suspect charged at the deputy.  He attacked the detention deputy and a violent fight ensues."

The deputy said Robbibaro began "choking him out," so he fired two shots.  Both struck the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The deputy was taken to the hospital; his condition was not immediately clear.

"This is a horrible situation anytime we are involved in these type of incidents, but I want to thank God our deputies are OK," Nocco added.

Neighbors heard the commotion and couldn't believe what happened.

"He had to react as quick as he could and I'm sure that his decision was the right one," said Debra Tompkins, who lives right near where one of the crashes happened. "I'm glad that no one else was injured but my heart goes out to the parents of the boy. I really do. I seen them out there today and she was heart-broken."

The deputies were identified as Sgt. Paul Van Steen, 51, and Deputy Jeffrey Pyle, 33, who have 30 years of experience between them.

According to the sheriff's office, Robbibaro has a history of four DUI arrests, including one in Alabama. He also was arrested for disorderly intoxication in 2010 and domestic battery and resisting with violence in 2015.

U.S. 41 remained closed during the investigation and re-opened just before 5 p.m.

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