Bodycam video released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday showed the tragic death of Ronald Ehrich, an 88-year-old man in Florida who armed himself after a deputy entered his home as part of a welfare check.
Deputy Anastacia Castillo, the officer involved in the incident, said that Ronald Ehrich had not been heard from in over two days, and that she only fired after he threatened to shoot her. In the video, Castillo can be heard telling the retired Tampa cop to lower his weapon and that she was just there to make sure that he was safe.
Angel Ortiz, Ehrich’s neighbor, said another unnamed woman called the sheriff’s officer to ask for the wellness check. He told the Tampa Bay Times that Ehrich was “hard of hearing” and “had to read your lips” if he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids.
WARNING: The images and video below are extremely graphic and violent and could be disturbing to viewers.
Deputy Castillo went to his address in Rearview and made her way upstairs, announcing that she was from the sheriff’s office. Appearing from behind a closed door, apparently spooked, Ronald Ehrich was armed and seemingly confused.
“Come out into the open and sit down or I’ll blow you right out of the…” Ehrich can be heard saying in the background, according to ABC News. Deputy Castillo rushed to the far end of the hallway and called for backup, later asking him to “please put the gun down.”
“Nobody is in trouble,” Castillo told him. “Your neighbor was concerned about you.”
Ronald Ehrich, still armed, mumbled to himself in footage released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “I’ve got a gun, you better get the hell out of here,” he can be heard saying, as well as “You’re out of your … mind.”
After repeated attempts to get Ehrich to put down his gun, the deputy fired three times, killing him. At no point in the bodycam video can Ronald Ehrich be seen, but his shadow can be made out at the end of the hallway.
The bodycam video was released as part of an investigation into Ronald Ehrich’s death, as authorities struggle to understand why the man refused to drop his weapon. The retired officer had no criminal history, according to ABC News, and no known mental health issues.
“I don’t know what more she could have done,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “This is tragic … No other way to put it.”
“In her mind, she thought she faced a medical situation, and in her mind, she was going to save a life,” he said. “We will try to investigate what led to this, but this is tragic for the deputy, for the sheriff’s office and for the man’s family.”
Angel Ortiz, Ronald Ehrich’s neighbor, told the Tampa Bay Times that he was completely shocked to learn what happened.
“If he knew she was a police officer, he would have complied right away,” Ortiz said, mentioning that Ehrich had great respect for officers since he was a former cop himself.
He said that Ehrich must have either not had his hearing aid dialed in or was unable to recognize the deputy as a law enforcement officer. Ehrich may have also been sleeping when the deputy arrived, and that according to the bodycam footage, it’s possible that he never got a good look at the woman. The wellness check was called in by another neighbor, who was concerned that his garage door was left open.
Angel Ortiz said that he has checked in on Ronald in the past a couple times at the request of his daughter, and wished that he had done that today to possibly prevent the tragedy.
“That’s what hurts,” Ortiz told the Tampa Bay Times, recalling that Ronald’s daughter said “he was excited for the holidays.”