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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Pine Hills, Florida 05/05/2004

Trapped in a garage by two suspects, Deputy Jennifer Fulford relied on her training to win a pitched gun battle.

January 01, 2006  |  by - Also by this author

Orange County (Fla.) Sheriff's Dep. Jennifer Fulford came to the aid of two children inside a vehicle in a garage between her and two armed home invaders.

Orange County (Fla.) Sheriff's Dep. Jennifer Fulford had a lot on her mind on May 5, 2004. Having just paid for her wedding dress, the logistics of her nuptials were weighing on the 31-year-old deputy as she began her patrol. There was still so much to do, and time was a precious commodity.

Fortunately, the five-year patrol veteran and FTO's latest trainee, Jason Gainor, was a lateral from the nearby Windermere Police Department. Training Gainor promised to be a streamlined process, just a matter of familiarizing him with his new agency's way of doing things.

Fulford and Gainor were working the day shift when shortly before 0800 a call went out: Suspicious circumstances at a residence. A juvenile informant had told the 911 operator that "strange men" were inside his Pine Hills, Fla., house. The dispatcher advised that little additional information was forthcoming as the eight-year-old boy was whispering and his cellular phone connection was poor. Dep. Dwayne Martin and Dep. Kevin Curry responded. Fulford and Gainor rolled to assist.

When Fulford and Gainor arrived at the Medford Court residence, they found Martin and Curry already on scene and speaking with the informant's mother in the driveway. The child informant was nowhere to be seen.

As Fulford drew near, the nervous mother approached her. "There are three men in my house. I don't know who they are or what they want."

Despite prodding from Fulford, the woman only repeated the same threadbare details. Then she finally added one more bit of information. Her children were seated inside a van parked in the garage.

Curry and Martin directed the mother to wait on the opposite side of the street while a helicopter and a K-9 deputy were requested to respond. The two deputies then took up surveillance postures on opposite sides of the property.

Fulford stared at the open garage door. The woman was hiding something, she thought.

While the neighborhood was no ghetto, predatory crime and dope slinging were not exactly foreign concepts on Medford Drive. Increasingly, security bars occupied the portals of doors and windows, and children were largely kept indoors. It was a neighborhood in decline.

Normally, the tactics for handling this home invasion would be containment. Get the requisite logistics and game plan in order, then do it by the numbers.

But something forced Fulford's hand. Whatever the intentions of the men inside the house-and whatever her personal reservations-she felt an immediate need to act on behalf of the children inside the van.

If the suspects were to close the garage door, the children would be at their questionable mercy. Should that happen, the best-case scenario would be a barricade operation. Fulford didn't want to contemplate the worst-case scenario.

She approached the garage.

Home Invaders

John Dzibinski couldn't believe his good luck. Only a month before, the 26-year-old had been busted in Osceola County for drug possession. But thanks to a teletype mix-up, he wasn't held on a South Carolina warrant naming him as a suspect in a North Charleston home invasion.

Now, he'd been tipped off to a large amount of marijuana and cash stashed inside a residence in suburban Orlando. Dzibinski's source characterized the house as "easy pickings." The husband was out of town, leaving just the wife and three children.

Dzibinski invited his two buddies, George Jenkins and Shaun Byrom, to accompany him for an easy score. Like Dzibinski, Jenkins had an extensive criminal record. Among his lesser documented evils was home invasion robbery.

Figuring the woman and her kids couldn't put up that much of a fight, the trio left their two AK-47s in their motel room, then headed for Pine Hills with handguns in their belts.

Comments (1)

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Charles Allen @ 6/15/2013 1:37 AM

A courageous officer that thinks about the welfare of others and then goes to work; this is what a hero is made of! I am sure Detective Fulford is still making decisions that actually improve other peoples lives. Thank you hero for stepping out in faith and prevailing.

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