Former Port Richey mayor says early-morning raid was retaliation

The attorney for former Port Richey mayor Dale Massad is gearing up to defend his client against charges stemming from a SWAT raid back in February.

Before they tell the story in court, they hope to sway the court of public opinion that Massad was the victim of retaliation - not the attempted murderer he's charged with being.

In February, officials said Massad shot at SWAT officers as they raided his home in connection to accusations the then-mayor was running an illegal medical practice from his residence. 

He’s been charged with five counts of attempted murder for firing two shots towards officers. Massad’s attorneys said Friday, that was a misunderstanding.

“The media coverage up to this day has been that he shot at, fired at law enforcement -- that’s inaccurate,” said Bjorn Brunvand, one of Massad’s attorneys.

“They were never, never, ever at risk. A bullet would have had to have taken a hard right turn to hit anyone that was down those set of steps,” Denis DeVlaming, another attorney hired by Massad said.

In a recent interview from jail, Massad admitted he was startled and scared when SWAT broke down his door in the early morning hours. He said he heard gunfire and what sounded like an explosion.

Massad said he had no idea it was a law enforcement raid, adding he had been burglarized twice in the past.

"I heard the stuff. I’m yelling, 'Who is it? Who is it?'" Massad recalled. "I'm groggy. It’s 4:30 in the morning. I jump out of bed. I’m scared to death.”

His defense team also says the timing of the raid was retaliation for his proposed plan to disband the city police department and turn Port Richey over to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

“I don’t understand this four o’clock in the morning thing at all,” DeVlaming said.

The raid was conducted when it was because, deputies said, Massad has a violent past.

Port Richey’s interim mayor, Terrence Rowe has been suspended by the governor after deputies say he conspired with Massad to retaliate against an officer involved in the case.