ECSO: Drone footage shows the moments that led up to deadly deputy involved shooting

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 4:35 PM CDT
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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) -This video from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office drone shows the tense moments that ended a standoff on Helton Lane in Pensacola Sunday afternoon. The sheriff’s office says bail bondsmen from Bay Minette were looking for 53-year-old Ronnie Clark who was wanted on meth related charges in Alabama as well as Escambia County Florida.

“He also has 58 felony convictions. He has been incarcerated three times,” said Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons. “He was also designated as a violent felony offender of special concern.”

Sheriff Simmons says Clark held a woman against her will in a tent and appeared to have a gun. Swat officers and deputies responded and tried for five hours to get him to surrender. They even used tear gas, but Simmons says none of it worked.

“He also during this time made two phone calls or texts to people that he knows, acquaintances, and said that he has a gun and he said he’s going to shoot it out with deputies,” said Simmons.

Authorities say the drone video shows Clark using the woman as a shield while he drags her over to his car. The sheriff’s office says Clark had a knife to her throat and she continued to try to fight him off. In the video you can see someone is being dragged into a car and that’s when one of the ballistic vehicles pushes the car to keep them from leaving. Investigators say the struggle continued inside the car before a swat officer shot and killed Clark.

“When you see an active struggle like that with an individual with a knife to a person’s throat. Their life is in grave danger,” said Simmons. “If you have an opportunity to eliminate that danger than you do so. We cannot let a hostage leave with a hostage taker.”

Simmons says the woman was also injured when a bullet either fragmented or hit her after going through Clark. Deputies were able to recover this knife that they say Clark used to hold the victim hostage. Instead of a gun deputies found a gun shaped object.

“Two pieces of black something that he taped together and clearly he was using that to let people think he had a firearm,” added Simmons.

Simmons says it’s unfortunate the woman was injured but given the circumstances he feels the swat officer had no choice but to shoot.

“Our criminal escalated these events and it cost him his life. If you try to do these things you’re not long for this world,” said Simmons. “You play this type of stupid game, and you get what you get.”

The sheriff’s office says the woman who was injured is recovering at a local hospital and it’s unclear exactly how she knew Clark. Meanwhile Sheriff Simmons says as part of standard procedure. One deputy has been put on paid administrative leave. The FDLE is investigating and will hand over their findings to the state attorney’s office.