It was about 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, and throughout the Alta Westgate apartments, children were snuggled in their beds. School was still a few hours away. The sun had yet to rise.
Orange County sheriff would later say, deputies fired more than 100 rounds. Some of those rounds hit their mark — killing a suspected car thief who the Sheriff's Office says was trying to run down deputies. And yet, more than two weeks later, residents who live there are still wondering whether deputies did the right thing — not by defending their lives — but by following the suspect into a populated apartment complex and unleashing a torrent of gunfire with so many innocents so close by.
I'm wondering whether the rest of this community even cares.
The shooting, after all, happened in west Orlando, near Pine Hills — where crime is no stranger.
And the reaction has been largely … silence.
The TV stations showed up for their early-morning stand-ups and next-day follows. The newspaper did something similar, with a couple of follow-ups tucked inside the Local section.
Then the media and the community seemed ready to move on.
Can you imagine the reaction if this had happened somewhere else?
If deputies had tailed a suspect into College Park and unloaded more than 100 rounds in the middle of one of the streets named after Ivy League schools.
If the pursuit had ended somewhere in Baldwin Park, and stray bullets had hit the homes of little boys and girls who attend Audubon Park Elementary.
The outcry would be deafening.
Parents would demand answers. The media would camp out on the manicured lawns. Politicians would call for accountability.
We should demand nothing less this time.
Sheriff Jerry Demings says we will get it. "I take this very seriously," he said Friday. "We owe it to the community. To the families that were involved. I owe it to my deputies."
Let me be very clear: My sympathies do not lie with criminals.
If the suspect, 27-year-old Torey Breedlove, did as the authorities say and tried to run over deputies who had him cornered, he should've known that pressing the accelerator might be the last thing he'd ever do.
The men and women who serve and protect put their lives on the line. Sometimes they have to make the necessary choice of protecting their own lives by taking the life of someone trying to kill them.
But there are details about this case that are troubling — particularly with regard to the number of rounds that were fired at a moving vehicle in a heavily populated area.