Domestic violence cases rise as pandemic continues

One man is dead after pushing his way into a Brandon apartment early Sunday morning, forcing the residents inside to defend themselves.

Hillsborough County investigators said the man knocked on the door of a Woodberry Woods apartment home around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. A woman inside the apartment answered the door and the man pushed his way inside as the argument ensued.

The man opened fire and shot another resident, forcing the woman to defend herself as she killed the intruder.

Detectives said the incident was not random. They believe the dispute stemmed from a domestic issue.

Ronald Fleet. Photo courtesy: Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

In Pasco County, investigators said 55-year-old Ronald Fleet was shot dead after attempting to break into the home of a family member of his estranged wife. Fleet had a gun and started firing, but those inside the house shot back.

"Any loss of life is tragic, but the victim was utilizing his second amendment rights to protect himself and his family, from Ronald who was carrying a gun, kicking in a door, trying to harm them,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. 

The two incidents, just a day apart, highlight a disturbing pattern of domestic violence. The pattern has those at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay worried. 

"There is concern across our community because during the shutdown, there has not been eyes on vulnerable populations, whether that's children, individuals in domestic violence situations, the elderly,” said Clara Reynolds with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people have spent more time inside their homes, often trapped with their abusers or unable to ask for help.

"Home has become everything right now. It's the place where you work, it's the place where you educate, it's the place where you have to do everything,” said Reynolds. “We're also seeing more families living closer together right now for a variety of economic reasons, so that increases the stress level."

While the pandemic continues, community leaders said it’s important to know that there is help available and you don’t need to wait to reach out.

"When you call 211, the first thing we're going to do is talk about safety. We're going to create with you a plan to keep you safe.

Whether that is internal, what you're going to do to deal with your own anxiety, or if you're in a situation that you really need to get out of, we will help you safely plan,” said Reynolds. 

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay‘s phone lines are open all hours of the day, seven days a week. If you are struggling and would like to reach out to them, the number to call is 211.