Sheriff: 'Career criminal' killed by deputy after grabbing detective's gun

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A career criminal wanted for auto theft grabbed a detective's gun and was shot to death by a deputy in a residential area near Seffner on Tuesday afternoon, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said.

The incident happened outside a mobile home at 904 West Wheeler Road in Brandon on Tuesday afternoon. The detective and deputy were not injured.

According to Gee, Det. Jack Thompson, an 18-year veteran, found Bobby Earl Driggers, 50, standing next to a Jeep outside the residence. Thompson approached Driggers, tried to get him to sit in the back seat of the Jeep and called for backup. 

While Thompson was waiting for help, Gee said, Driggers tried to grab Thompson's holster and gun from his waistband. The two struggled, falling into the back seat of the Jeep, with Driggers trying to pull the gun from the holster and Thompson trying to hold on to it long enough for his backup to arrive.

Two minutes later, Deputy Manuel Gonzalez arrived. According to investigators, Gonzalez saw the men struggling, and Thompson screamed, "Shoot him, he has my gun."

Gonzalez, a 16-year-veteran, fired one round and hit Driggers with a fatal shot, Gee said.

Fire rescue took Driggers to Tampa General Hospital, where he died a short while later.

Gee described Driggers as a multi-state offender who has served time in Kansas and has 14 felony charges and eight convictions in Florida. Driggers has served time in the Florida prison at least six times since 2002, Gee said.

"So he appears to be a career criminal," Gee said. "Of course the biggest question appears to be why this guy was even out here today. But that's part of the intelligence policing program we do when these guys come on our radar.

"We immediately get out and try to find them."

Gee said Driggers has a local Seffner address and "has been our radar for about a week or so."

Driggers was wanted for auto theft and questioning in "some other things we were looking at him for today, some things that involved a violent crime that had occurred over the last couple of weeks," Gee said.

Both deputies have been placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the shooting.