ISLAMORADA -- Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay says his officers were correct in returning fire and killing an Islamorada man who was wielding a handgun last Friday afternoon. It was the first killing of a suspect by a deputy since the 1960s.
Deputy Luis Gomez was one of the first officers to respond to a shots fired call at 118 Bayview Isles Drive in Venetian Shores.
As Gomez approached Robert Parlette Jr. in the home's canalside backyard, the 73-year-old opened fire on the deputy with a .45 caliber handgun, according to the Sheriff's Office. Gomez returned fire with a fatal shot to Parlette's chest.
Gomez was placed on paid leave for a few days and offered counseling but that shouldn't be misconstrued as disciplinary action, Ramsay said.
"As far as we're concerned, this was a very clean shoot and an open-and-shut case," the sheriff said. "We don't feel he did anything wrong and want him OK and back on the streets.
"The call came in as a shots fired already, and there was a fear that there was an immediate threat to lives," he added. "It's a tough world out there, and it's hard to predict when and where something will happen. This is a $1.4 million house with two Cadillacs in the driveway with boats in a very well-to-do neighborhood. It's the last place where you would expect something like this to happen."
Ramsay said no internal affairs investigation is planned.
As to why Parlette pulled the gun, Ramsay was told Parlette recently began drinking again after a long period of sobriety.
"I think alcohol is an influencing factor and prior history of domestics with his wife," he said. "There was a domestic issue at the house the night before, and he has had prior history of anger issues and threatening people with guns [in West Palm Beach]."
Whether Parlette was trying to induce Gomez to shoot him may never be known, the sheriff said.
"The only person who knows that is no longer here," Ramsay said. "And how much alcohol played into this is something that I'm sure the FDLE will investigate."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as a non-biased third party, is investigating the shooting, said FDLE spokesman Steve Arthur.
"This is an active investigation that when complete will be turned over to the State Attorney's Office," he said.
To residents of pricey Venetian Shores, violent crime is quite rare. Other than stolen fishing gear, police are rarely dispatched, said John Cooper, who heads the neighborhood's Crime Watch.
"Alcohol and firearms don't go well together," he said when asked about Parlette's death.
Gomez was hired on April 7, 2004, and in that time has had no internal affairs investigations, 14 commendations and letters of recognition, and four non-discipline letters of counseling for minor infractions.
Gomez makes $50,843 a year.