RIVERVIEW, Fla. — A Hillsborough County deputy fatally shot an elderly man, who was once a police officer, inside his own home Tuesday in Riverview while attempting to do a welfare check, Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
Investigators say a neighbor on Longcrest Drive called first responders just before 7:30 a.m., expressing concern about the well-being of the older man, since identified by authorities as 88-year-old Ronald Ehrich, because she saw his garage door open and had not seen him in at least two days.
A deputy arrived within minutes, met with the neighbor and put on latex gloves – assuming Ehrich may have suffered a medical episode and needed her help. The deputy entered the home and began searching, announcing her presence along the way.
She walked upstairs, knocking on the wall as she came up and began checking bedrooms, Chronister said.
While upstairs, Chronister said the deputy heard a gentleman's voice indicating he was home and armed with a firearm. Investigators say the deputy told Ehrich she was there to help and tried to deescalate the situation.
Ehrich then opened a door and could be seen armed with a handgun, authorities said. At that point, investigators say the deputy began to retreat while continuing to announce who she was.
According to Chronister, the body camera footage shows she use her flashlight to try to make it abundantly clear she was a deputy in uniform. Chronister said she told Ehrich he was not in any trouble but he continued to advance toward her and eventually cornered her in a bedroom where she had no escape.
"Sir, drop that gun," Chronister said the deputy told Ehrich while she held her service weapon.
"I don't want to do this," the deputy can be heard saying on video.
The sheriff said Ehrich advanced toward her, and she shot him.
“There is no other way to describe this other than tragic,” Sheriff Chronister said. “This deputy went in to save a life, expecting to find someone experiencing a medical emergency. She made every attempt to deescalate the situation before being forced to fire her weapon for her own safety.”
In response to questions surrounding Ehrich's hearing abilities, the sheriff's office said it was unable to disclose information on the man's medical history.
"I am unable to comment on Mr. Ehrich's medical history due to HIPPA [sic]," an HCSO spokesperson said in a statement. "It is normal for our deputies to clearly and repeatedly announce themselves and make sure their presence as law enforcement is known."
The Tampa Police Department confirms Ehrich was a police officer in the 1970s. Years later, he served as a security officer at a now-defunct bank.
Authorities identified the law enforcement officer involved as Deputy Anastacia Castillo, adding that she had worked with the agency since 2015 and had no internal affairs history. She was placed on paid administrative leave, which is protocol in these situations.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was dispatched and will lead the independent investigation into the matter, in accordance with HCSO's policy.
A relative of Ronald Ehrich released the following statement:
First of all, we would like to say we are thankful to everyone who knows us and knows our father for reaching out and supporting us. It means everything and we are so thankful for you.
Tuesday morning was a tragedy on many levels, and everything since has been unimaginable.
We are just now beginning to process our grief, and just getting through the logistics of his passing. At the same time we are trying to keep our own lives and responsibilities functioning. Anyone who has lost someone they care about knows how incredibly hard this whole process is.
On top of this, our family has to process, learn, comprehend, and try to sort out the aftermath of the manner in which he died.
We want everyone to know are fully cooperating with the HCSO and the FDLE and they are cooperating with us. Everyone we have dealt with so far has been polite, caring and professional.
When the Sherrif gave his first press conference, almost immediately after the incident- it was only what he knew about the situation so far, an unfolding investigation that will take a long time to sort out.
No one knew my father was a sane, kind, happy man who had a great life on his own terms. No one knew he had family, friends and neighbors that loved him, and even if we did not see each other every day, we were in constant contact. No one knew that he had just been out with my brother the day before the incident and was looking forward to Christmas at my house. No one knew he was invited to move closer so we could see him more, but chose to stay because he loved his house, as it was his connection to his wife that passed away. No one knew he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, drove, shopped, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and made his bed and finished a crossword every morning. No one knew he was a heavy sleeper with 60% hearing loss and could barely hear even with his hearing aids- which were still on his nightstand at the time this incident. No one knew he needed glasses that he also was not wearing, and had even had some recent macular degeneration. No one knew that he was trained and licensed and knew fully well the rules of how and when to raise a gun at someone. No one knew he was also an ex policeman with an excellent record of service, who was on high alert because there had just been a break in at the house right next door just before this incident. No one knew he was probably thinking he was catching the neighborhood burglar.
No one knew any of these things about him, and yet there was an immediate press and social media windstorm that has made our personal tragedy a public circus.
Our family and especially my father support(ed) law enforcement and first responders, and are thankful for the work they do every day. If you think it’s easy for one minute to go into the situations they do, make life or death decisions in the heat of the moment, respond to tragic situations like this, listen as families sob and hug their loved one’s pillow, etc. it’s not. It’s gut wrenching all around.
My father told me many of his own stories. It’s not easy. If you think you could do better then sign up and prove it.
The media and the public need to realize that these are real people involved in a surreal and impossible situation- and stop rushing to judgment of the police, the victim, or the family of a victim before the complete story comes out. And even then why does everyone in this world need to judge?
We live in a world where media sensationalism sells, and commenting on Facebook is a competitive sport. It’s ridiculous and hurtful.
No one's opinion without facts is helping anything right now.
Instead of getting involved with something that has nothing to do with you, go be kind to another person today.
Ron Ehrich was someone’s husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, son, neighbor. He loved all of us, and we loved him, and this situation is incredibly hard to handle. People should learn to respect that.
Everyone should stop inflating the story, let the investigation finish, let us bury our father, and let us grieve in peace.
Nothing can bring him back.