Lawtey, FL – The Bradford County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has released dramatic dashcam footage that showed the moment a gunman opened fire on deputies outside his home (video below).
The incident occurred on Oct. 7, 2018, after the BCSO received a report that 39-year-old Anthony Hodges was not taking his mental health medication and had become aggressive, WJXT reported.
"We've had several calls in the past in reference to this individual," Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith told WJXX at the time. "We know he has sought mental counseling before and takes medication."
The caller reported that Hodges holed himself up in a shed, and that there was a firearm inside, according to WJXT.
Dashcam footage showed the deputies as they arrived at Hodges’ three-acre property at approximately 9 a.m., The Gainesville Sun reported.
As they rolled down the long dirt road, they passed by a yellow school bus that Hodges’ girlfriend used for her job as a driver, and parked their cruisers parallel to it.
The deputies attempted to make contact with Hodges by calling him on his cell phone, according to The Gainesville Sun.
A short while later, Hodges emerged from the shed armed with a “semiautomatic-styled” rifle, and began shooting at them, WJXX reported.
Just prior to the gunfire, one of the deputies could be seen putting his hand on his duty weapon as he backed further behind the cover of his patrol car, dashcam footage showed.
“Get down, get down, get down,” one of the deputies cautioned, just before a volley of gunshots rang out.
Bullets riddled the patrol cars, prompting the deputies to fall back behind the cover of the school bus.
“It was probably 100 yards from where the deputies were parked, which is where they were located when he fired his first rounds at them,” BCSO Major Brad Smith told The Gainesville Sun. “And he was advancing toward them as he was firing.”
As Hodges continued towards the bus, the deputies were forced to reposition themselves towards the rear portion of the bus.
They returned fire, and ultimately ran back towards their patrol vehicles for cover.
Along the way, one deputy fell to the ground and rolled, before he continued to return fire from a sitting position in the middle of the roadway, the video showed.
The deputies were not injured during the altercation, but Hodges was mortally wounded, The Gainesville Sun reported.
The deputies rushed to the gunman’s aid after he fell to the ground, and tended to him until emergency medical personnel arrived.
He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Hodges’ family said they understood why the deputies were forced to use deadly force during the encounter, and said they did not blame law enforcement for what occurred.
“I already hear bullets flying in my sleep,” Hodges’ mother, Geneva Wilkison, told WJXT. “I feel like they did what they had to do. I never blamed the police.”
“I know the family well, I interact with them on a regular occasion, and the first words they said to me was they were grateful for the efforts of the deputies involved. It was overwhelming to them to see them work hard to save the man’s life,” Sheriff Smith told The Gainesville Sun at the time.
“They were very pleased at how hard the deputies worked for quite some time prior to the emergency medical service arriving,” he said.
Wilkison told WJXT that her son has struggled with mental health issues since he was 14 years old, and that the gun he used to attack the deputies had been purchased by his girlfriend.
“I just hope people that see this know, don’t buy a weapon for a mentally ill person. Don’t buy a weapon for nobody – period," she said. "If they can’t buy it themselves, there’s a reason."
In January, a Bradford County grand jury determined that the deputies’ use of force was justified, WJXT reported.
You can watch dashcam footage of the deputies’ harrowing encounter with Hodges in the video below. The gunfight starts at about the 1:50 mark.