UPDATE Deputy Hit, Driver Shot In Traffic Stop

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By Julie Montanaro
December 6, 2013

A Leon County grand jury today reviewed the actions of a deputy who fired on a fleeing suspect.

The shots were fired near Highway 20 and Aenon Church Road in October.

An LCSO spokesman says Deputy Tyler Epstein pulled over a car for reckless driving, but it sped off and knocked him to the ground.

Epstein fired and struck the driver in the shoulder. Today a grand jury reviewed Epstein's actions that night and decided he was justified in his use of force.

The driver, Nicholas Smith, survived and is now out on bond.

By Julie Montanaro
October 16, 2013

A Leon County deputy who shot a fleeing suspect last week has just been cleared to return to work.

Deputy Tyler Epstein was placed on leave last week after a shooting on Highway 20.

Epstein says he stopped Nicholas Smith for reckless driving. He claims Smith initially pulled over, but then took off and knocked him to the ground.

Epstein fired and shot Smith in the shoulder. Smith survived.

A preliminary internal affairs report is now complete. An LCSO spokesman says Epstein was cleared to return to work and will report for his shift on Friday.

The state attorney says a grand jury will review the deputy's use of force in one of its upcoming sessions.

By: Julie Montanaro
October 11, 2013

A Leon County Sheriff's Office spokesman says 21 year old Nicholas Smith was shot by a Leon County deputy last night after he took off from a traffic stop.

LCSO Smith struck Deputy Tyler Epstein with his BMW, knocked him down in the street and into the path of oncoming traffic.

LCSO says Epstein fired three shots at Smith's car. One of those shots hit Smith in the shoulder.

Smith was taken to the hospital for treatment and then to jail. He is facing charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest with violence and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

An LCSO Sspokesman says they still do not know why Smith took off.

"The motives for these actions still remains unknown," LT James McQuaig said.

"He wasn't wanted?"

"Not that we're aware of, no."

"And you didn't find anything illegal in his car"

"No," McQuaig said.

Deputy Epstein was treated for bruises and abrasions and released from the hospital. He is on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

An LCSO spokesman says Epstein's car was not equipped with a dashboard camera and neither were two other cars on scene.

Epstein was honored earlier this week for his actions in another deputy involved shooting in which the suspect shot and killed an LCSO K-9.

Deputies say Smith is from Miaramar, Florida. A FAMU spokeswoman confirms that Smith is a senior in the College of Pharmacy.

Press Release: Leon County Sheriff's Office

On October 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm, Uniform Patrol Deputies observed a man, later identified as 21 year old Nicholas Damon Smith, driving erratically on Blountstown Highway near Aenon Church Road.

Deputies attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the black BMW, but the driver refused to stop. Instead, he continued driving west on Blountstown Highway in a reckless manner.

When deputies observed Smith’s BMW nearly cause a head-on collision with oncoming traffic, they again attempted to conduct a traffic stop in the area on Blountstown Highway, just west of Coe Landing Road.

When Smith stopped his vehicle, deputies approached him, while instructing him to turn the car off and show his hands. Instead of complying with the deputies’ instructions, Smith accelerated and swerved the BMW into the path of Deputy Tyler Epstein. The BMW struck Epstein knocking him to the ground.

At that time, Deputy Epstein fired three shots with his agency issued handgun striking Smith in the left shoulder. Other deputies pursued Smith to the area of Blountstown Highway west of Seabs Road where Smith again stopped and was taken into custody.

Both Smith and Epstein were treated and released from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Smith sustained a single non-life threatening gunshot wound while Epstein sustained bruises and abrasions from being struck by the BMW. Both are expected to fully recover.

Deputy Epstein was placed on Administrative Leave, with pay, pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs investigation. Smith was arrested and taken to the Leon County Jail.

Nicholas D. Smith
21 years old
Charges: Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon, Resisting Arrest with Violence and Aggravated Fleeing and Eluding involving Injuries

By: Garin Flowers
October 10, 2013

Leon County, FL - Around 8pm Thursday evening Leon County Sheriff's deputies tried to pull a man over for erratic driving on Blountstown Highway (Highway 20).

The incident began near Coe Landing Road and Highway 20 where deputies witnessed a man driving erratically. The vehicle almost caused a head on collision with other vehicles.

Deputies stopped the car, but as they got close they say he pulled off striking a deputy. The Sheriff's Office says that same deputy pulled out their gun and fired multiple shots striking the suspect once.

The suspect continued to flee until they were stopped about two miles down the road.

"He's been transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and so has the deputy," said Leon County Sheriff's lieutenant James McQuaig. "We're in the early stages of the investigation, so there is much more information that will be coming out," added McQuaig.

Highway 20 near Seabs Road is where deputies finally stopped and arrested the suspect.

Both the deputy and suspect suffered non-life threatening injuries. The deputy has since been released from the hospital. The driver of the vehicle is expected to be transported to the Leon County Jail sometime overnight.

Eyewitness News will bring you updates as they become available.

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