NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - The Pasco County Detention Center deputy who shot and severely injured a mentally ill inmate - with a device that should never be fired directly at a person - had never fired one before, according to records obtained by FOX 13 News.
"None of us ever touched or fired a Nova round,” Corporal Robert Haas told detective Steve Napoleon during an Internal Affairs interview.
“How long was that training?" Napoleon asked.
"That training - maybe four, five minutes," Haas replied, adding the training consisted of watching an instructor fire off a single round.
Despite the lack of first-hand experience, Haas told the detective he had no problem using a Nova round on 29-year-old Matthew Trevino - and neither did his fellow deputies.
Haas: I thought it was a safe distance and I deployed it.
Haas: Because we'd been dealing with him pretty much.
Napoleon: I know you guys.
Haas: For quite a while.
Napoleon: Had a hard time with him. I can see that. You guys took ample time to get to that point because he was being such a pain. But describe for me that area you saw. You guys describe, you described it in your, as a window of opportunity.
Comparing Official Reports to Video Evidence
Public records reviewed by FOX 13 News reveal several of the detention deputies’ reports used that particular phase - "a window of opportunity" - along with other similar language. The same reports said Haas fired when Trevino took a step back, but video shows Trevino was pressed against the door at the time Haas fired.
Napoleon did not question why the descriptions in the incident reports were so similar, but also inaccurate. The Internal Affairs investigations closed without any discipline for Haas, nor for his supervisor, Lt. Richard Bain. The findings' letters said there was “insufficient evidence" to prove any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, State Attorney Bernie McCabe’s office said it is investigating the shooting.
And Trevino’s attorneys are preparing to file a federal lawsuit.
"There's absolutely no threat to any individual here, and they begin to escalate the situation by making threats. You start to see the shotgun be brought into frame,” said attorney Lee Pearlman, referring to videos that captured the incident.
Pearlman said the Army veteran was suffering from a schizophrenic episode.
Nova rounds can be deadly. They are intended for use as a distraction device, like a flashbang grenade fired from a shotgun. The manufacturer's website warns the rounds should never be aimed directly at a person.
"His injuries are horrific. It took three surgeries so far to repair the damage, and he still can't walk without pain,” said attorney Mark Rankin, who is also representing Trevino. “This is someone that's in jail on a misdemeanor violation of probation, who is having a mental health crisis, and this is something the Pasco County Sheriff's Office has done to that person."
Through a spokesman, Sheriff Chris Nocco declined to comment on the shooting.
“Due to the pending lawsuit, we have nothing further to add to our previous statement: A criminal with a violent history in the jail failed to comply with lawful directions. His actions dictated our reaction," Nocco said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
Trevino doesn't have any violent crime convictions.
The State Attorney's Office has not released any details of its investigation, other than to say it is ongoing.