A 9mm round from Brooks struck Dep. John Randall's cruiser, prompting officers to return fire.
Stepping outside his driver's door and in front of Fleming, Dep. Randall took aim with his Glock and fired a volley at the Mustang's driver's window. As Randall bent down to reload, Fleming pulled him back out of his field of fire and opened fire with his own Glock.
The side windows of the Mustang were blown out. Fleming could see nobody visible inside. Surmising that the suspect was reclined in his seat, he adjusted his aim a few inches below the window frame and put five rounds through the driver's door.
Silence and gun smoke descended over the scene. Maintaining his aim on the car, Fleming's peripheral vision let him know no good guys had been hit. Still, he was uncomfortable with how close he and his fellow officers had collectively positioned themselves to the Mustang. Fleming ordered everyone to move to the rear of the cars for better cover.
Backup arrived and Fleming relieved the officers who'd been involved in the firefight with others who assumed a tactical position behind the cars with long guns. A second group, led by Sgt. Jeffrey Esterline, situated themselves atop a nearby condo overlooking the terminus of the pursuit to get some eyes down inside the Mustang. A sheriff's department helicopter and units on the ground aimed spotlights into the car, but humidity conspired against them: The front windshield was fogged up and the rooftop observers could not see into the car.
Minutes passed by without any movement from inside the Mustang or response to repeated PA announcements. Fleming notified his captain, who directed an armored tactical vehicle to respond to the scene.
Observations from within the armored vehicle led personnel on scene to believe that the driver was deceased. Fleming led an arrest team armed with long rifles. They approached the driver's window and windshield from behind the safety of ballistic shields.
Brooks lay atop the reclined driver's seat, his head canted with a bullet wound visible to the rear of his ear. Seeing the gun still in his possession, the team retrieved it without incident. The gunman was pronounced dead at the scene.
Brooks' life had spun out of control long before his car did, and it is unlikely that even with the added advantage of knowing who Brooks was there would be an alternate conclusion to the night's events.
Sgt. Fleming's only misgiving about the tactics of the incident was the relative proximity of Brooks' vehicle to the deputies' cars at the terminus of the pursuit. But even this is understandable given the speeds and the officers' needs to react to its sudden conclusion. He notes that the deputies looked out for one another in more than one sense: Horton put the brakes on another deputy as he began moving up on the car, and both his and trainee Bergman's restraint in not succumbing to tunnel vision or firing while deputies were in their field of fire.
Thirty-nine rounds were fired by law enforcement in the span of a few seconds, seven of which found their target.
Fleming was pleasantly surprised with the performance of his agency's .45 ACP ammo and its success in penetrating the vehicle, which was evident in the video captured by one of the patrol car dash cams.
Brooks' own rounds had come dangerously close to each of the officers he
"He had put his seat down and was shooting up over the top of the door," says Fleming. "He emptied his gun while aiming just below the center of the overheads. And that first shot was perfect."
The seven officers involved in the shootout received the Combat Cross from the PCSO. Sgt. Raymond Fleming is second from right. Deputy John Randall is far left.
The gravity of the incident didn't set in for Fleming until the following morning. As he showered, he found a couple pieces of glass wedged in his scalp that he hadn't noticed before.
Fleming has since come to peace with the incident, and is proud of the professionalism of all involved.
"That night, I wanted to dictate where this was going to end and not let the suspect dictate where this was going to end," he reflects "We knew something was going to happen, we just didn't know what. But we took as much control away from him as we could, and came out on top despite not knowing what we were dealing with throughout the incident. We had nothing to go on."
Among the honors received by Sgt. Fleming and the other officers for their heroism that night was recognition from the Fraternal Order of Police, his agency's Combat Cross, and a Public Safety Award from the Pinellas County Commission. All of the officers involved continue to serve the citizens of Florida.