Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said Friday his office’s investigation of a Sunday afternoon shooting in Port St. Joe found a deputy justified in his use of deadly force.
Harrison said the actions of a suspect in a gas drive-off in Bay County and later ramming a Tyndall Police vehicle, “ultimately” led to his being killed by a single gunshot.
When he exited his vehicle on Avenue A in Port St. Joe near Dr. David Langston Drive, Joseph David Durman, 46, was brandishing a “shiny, black object” in his right hand as if holding a weapon.
Harrison said officers on scene from three separate law enforcement agencies believed it was a weapon, which Durman continued to point at the deputy after being ordered several times to drop the weapon.
“The deputy, forced to make a split-second decision to take the life of an individual” fired and killed Durman, Harrison said.
After the incident, a black battery pack, roughly 4 inches by 2 1/2 inches by 1 inch was found under Durman’s body and is believed to be the object he was holding, Harrison said.
Harrison released the findings of the SO investigation Friday.
The investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement remains ongoing.
Harrison said he would not identify the deputy until the conclusion of that investigation, other to note that the deputy has been with the GCSO for 25 years, has “an impeccable record and has never fired his weapon in the line of duty.”
The FDLE has 45 days from the date of the incident to turn over its report to the State Attorney’s Office for review.
Harrison said he wanted to release the results of the SO investigation to address questions of whether Durman was armed; Harrison added he wanted “to get inside his head” to understand the events that led to the shooting.
Durman was driving a white Explorer with an illegal tag and drove off from a $50 gas fill-up in Callaway, which had Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies in pursuit.
As a pursuit continued onto Tyndall the suspect was reported to have “rammed his car several times into a Tyndall Air Force Officer,” Harrison said.
The GCSO deputy picked up the pursuit west of Port St. Joe, activated emergency lights and siren, but Durman sped up and was observed by the officer “digging around in the front seat for something,” according to the SO investigation.
Investigators subsequently learned the Durman had fled from probation for aggravated burglary in the state of Tennessee and was wanted for escape from a work release program in Alabama.
The vehicle he has driving was stolen in Alabama and contained stolen property, primarily construction equipment, Harrison said.
Durman was also a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history for charges ranging from false imprisonment, aggravated assault, fleeing and eluding and aggravated domestic assault to resisting a law enforcement officer.
“He didn’t want to go back to jail,” Harrison said.
“My heart goes out to the Durman family on the loss of their son and my heart goes out to my deputy whose life is forever changed by this event.
“However, I feel that it was ultimately Durman’s actions that led to his death.”