Indialantic, FL – A Brevard County sheriff’s deputy remains hospitalized after he was shot in the line of duty Tuesday night.
"I'm going to start this press conference off with exactly what he told me, and that is 'I won,'" Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said of the wounded deputy on Wednesday morning, according to WOFL.
"He has an 'I'm gonna win' mentality. He has an 'I'm going home safe every day to my family' mentality and I believe that's a big reason why he's alive, because he refused to do anything but win," Sheriff Ivey told WKMG.
The incident began at approximately 8 p.m. on Tuesday, after 35-year-old Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Phillips was called to a residence for a report of two neighbors feuding over the feeding of feral cats, WOFL reported.
When Deputy Phillips pulled up at the scene, he witnessed an altercation taking place between the man who had been feeding the cats and his neighbor, 45-year-old Erik Gebauer.
Deputy Phillips, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Army, immediately recognized that Gebauer was “extremely agitated,” so he told the other neighbor to go back into his home, Sheriff Ivey explained.
“As our deputy was trying to talk to [Gebauer], his agitation was very evident, he was starting to act like he was rolling up his pants, mumbling like he was trying to engage our deputy," the sheriff continued.
"At one point, he goes behind a vehicle that's parked nearby, and our deputy, who is an Army veteran, heard the very distinct sound of a rifle being charged,” he said.
Gebauer then opened fire on the deputy, who managed to fire multiple rounds at his attacker as he made a “tactical retreat” to cover, Sheriff Ivey recounted.
"The gunfire lasted long enough for our deputy to expend all of the rounds in his magazine, reload, and re-engage the suspect," he noted.
Deputy Phillips was struck three times, suffering gunshot wounds to his shoulder and legs, WOFL reported.
He collapsed onto the ground, but the neighbor who had been feeding the feral cats was able to drag him to safety.
Other residents living in the area later said that the man who helped the deputy is also a U.S. Army veteran.
“I can’t thank him enough for going out to do everything he could to help our deputy,” the sheriff raved.
Once he was safe from the gunfire, Deputy Phillips reloaded and returned fire again, fatally striking Gebauer.
“This guy picked that battle. My guy didn't go there and say, ‘We’re going to get into a gun fight.’ This guy picked that battle,” Sheriff Ivey told reporters.
“I think [Gebauer] got exactly what he wanted,” he added. “He wanted a violent exchange, and it didn’t end the way he anticipated.”
Deputy Phillips joined the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) in 2018, after serving 14 years in the U.S. Army.
He served two tours in Iraq, and achieved the rank of staff sergeant during his military career.
Deputy Phillips has already undergone one surgery and will need several more in the future, but he is expected to recover from his wounds.
"The doctors are very confident that he will recover and he's got a long road to go for him and his family, but everything, the prognosis is extremely good for him to fully recover and come back to work," Sheriff Ivey told WKMG.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of him,” he added, according to WOFL.
It wasn’t the first time that BCSO deputies had a run-in with Gebauer, WFTV reported.
In 2011, he was arrested for aggravated battery, after two children called 911 to report that he was threatening to kill their mother.
"Gebauer was armed with a gun and running in and out of the home," a deputy who responded to the scene said.
The charge against him in that case was ultimately dropped.
Gebauer’s arrest history also included charges of fleeing and eluding, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, burglary, resisting an officer without violence, and stalking, WKMG reported.
The BCSO and the Florida Department of Law enforcement are both investigating the officer-involved shooting.