A Brevard County deputy is dead after being shot by a pair of suspected thieves in Melbourne.
Deputy Barbara Pill had pulled over a couple suspected of stealing from a hotel Tuesday morning, when she was shot and killed, according to Sheriff Jack Parker.
The suspects, 22-year-old Brandon Bradley and 19-year-old Andria Kerchner, were taken to the Brevard County Jail late Tuesday night.
Officers rush to 2 crime scenes
It all started around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, when authorities said Pill responded to a call about two people suspected of stealing from a nearby Econo Lodge hotel.
Parker said Pill had pulled over the suspects along John Rodes Boulevard. They refused to obey her commands, and Pill called for backup.
But before additional officers could arrive, deputies said they heard multiple gunshots over their radios.
Pill was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Other officers fled to the scene of the shooting and began a pursuit of the suspects' vehicle. The chase ended when the suspects' car rolled over into a ditch along Turtle Mound Road, about 3 miles away from the scene of the shooting.
Inside the car were Brandon Bradley and Andria Kerchner. The two were taken into custody, and later locked up late Tuesday night after hours of questioning.
Both Turtle Mound Road and John Rodes Boulevard were shut down for hours while authorities from several local agencies investigated the two scenes. For hours, no vehicles were allowed into the Cypress Bend neighborhood, near the shooting scene.
Deputy Pill: A 'hero behind the scenes'
In a sign of solidarity, more than a dozen officers joined Sheriff Parker as he approached the podium Tuesday afternoon to give an update on the day's events.
Parker described Barbara Pill as a hero behind the scenes, and someone who never strayed away from the dangers of the job.
"She was just one of the finest deputy sheriffs around," he said. "She was the kind of person that was always engaged, always doing things. When you met her, she was one of the kindest, nicest people you'd ever want to meet."
Pill had served for 30 years in law enforcement, including 15 years in Brevard County. She came from a family of fellow officers, including two sons who have followed in her footsteps, one of whom also serves in Brevard County.
Members of the community, both friends and strangers, have set up a memorial at the corner of John Rodes Boulevard and Silver Heron Drive, where Pill was shot.
Those who live nearby said they could not believe or understand the violence. Many were too emotional to speak, and others were visibily upset as they prayed, leaving flowers, candles and balloons under the street signs.
Pill was known for her work in the community, volunteering with various organizations and working with young people.
"She is the kind of person we could depend on to do anything," said Parker. "She was just a fantastic deputy sheriff and our agency was truly blessed to have her."
Several other county officials also gathered at the site of the shooting for Sheriff Parker's update:
- Larry Collins, Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief
- Howard Tipton, County Manager
- Kimberly Prosser, Emergency Management Director
- Chuck Nelson, District 2 County Commissioner
- Andy Anderson, District 5 County Commissioner
Statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott
"Brevard County Sheriff's Deputy Barbara Pill gave her life in the service of her fellow Florida citizens today. My sincerest condolences go to her family, as well as her fellow brothers and sisters in uniform in Brevard County and across the state.
"Law enforcement officers all over Florida risk their lives every day to ensure that our state is the safest place to live. When officers lose their lives in the line of duty, it is a solemn reminder of how grateful we should all be for their service. May we always show the honor and gratitude these brave men and women deserve."
Suspects have a criminal history
Both Brandon Bradley and Andria Kerchner have been charged with first-degree murder, among a slew of other charges.
But investigators said they believe it was Bradley who pulled the trigger.
"These people should probably be in prison," Sheriff Parker said during his initial news conference.
According to authorities, Bradley was actively sought for four felony warrants, ranging from burglary and robbery to possession of weapons and drugs.
Kerchner has also been previously convicted for possession of drugs and battery.