Bullets were fired at two Pasco County sheriff's deputies who were on routine patrol in Dade City early Sunday, adding to the already nerve-racking time right now for law enforcement in the Bay area and beyond.
Around 3:30 a.m., the deputies were sitting inside their patrol cars in the parking lot of Northside Baptist church, 37047 Lock Street, monitoring the intersection of 21st and Lock streets. Three bullets were fired at them, authorities said.
No one was hit or injured but the incident has Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco beyond upset.
"Our deputies deserve to be safe and our family members deserve to have their loved ones come home at the end of the shift," he said.
Both deputies reported hearing the whizzing sound of each bullet that flew by. They said they didn't see the suspect or the vehicle from which the shots were fired.
Area residents also heard the three gunshots and reported seeing a small, dark-colored vehicle with tinted windows in the area at the time of the shooting, deputies said.
There is something else that has deputies on high alert. They're looking for the person who spray painted a message on a road barrier in Wesley Chapel. It's hard to read, but it says "shoot mp cop."
Nocco has some strong words for whoever is responsible for the message and shooting.
"We're going to come out in force and we are not going to apologize," he said. "We are not going to be politically correct. We are going to do what is right."
These two incidents come at a time when law enforcement here in the Bay area and beyond are already on edge after the police killings in Tarpon Springs and New York.
"There are a lot of people threatening law enforcement for unjust reasons," Nocco said.
Nocco said his deputies are doing some things differently in light of the threats, but he won't go into detail. He also said violence against law enforcement is nothing new.
"There are people that commit wicked acts that are evil," he said. "There is no other way to say it. There are just evil people in our society, but it's a select few."
Nocco said they need the community's support more than ever right now.
Anyone with information about the shooting or graffiti is asked to call the sheriff's office at 727-847-8102 or 1-800-706-2488. Tips can also be provided online and anonymously at https://www.tipsubmit.com/WebTips.aspx?AgencyID=615