The mayor of a Gulf Coast Florida city was lucky to be alive, albeit in jail, on Friday, the day after he fired two shots at sheriff’s deputies during a pre-dawn raid at his home, authorities said.
After Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad refused to open the front door when sheriff’s deputies tried to execute a search warrant, SWAT team members forced it open and were met with gun fire, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
“He shot at our members, he’s lucky he’s not dead,” Nocco told reporters hours after the brief standoff in which no one was injured.
Authorities said they had a “strong suspicion” Massad, 68, was on drugs when he fired two rounds from a .40 caliber handgun. He surrendered along with other occupants just as deputies were about to launch tear gas into the house, Nocco said.
“We did everything we could to make it a peaceful resolution,” Nocco said, praising deputies for their restraint after being shot at. “If someone’s firing at us, we have every means and every right to fire back at them.”
Circuit Court Judge Declan Mansfield ordered Massad held without bond at the Pasco County jail on Friday after a brief hearing where state prosecutors said he would face five counts of attempted homicide.
An attorney for Massad could not reached.
Sheriff’s deputies were serving the warrant as part of a state investigation of whether Massad had been practicing medicine without a license in his community of about 2,700 people some 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Tampa.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said agents spent four months following up on information that Massad had treated patients for various conditions, including one that led to a hospital visit. Massad gave up his medical license in 1992 before it was revoked.
In addition to the attempted homicide charges, the Florida attorney general is prosecuting Massad for allegedly practicing medicine without a licence.
Massad, who appeared on the Port Richey ballot as “Dale ‘Doc’ Massad,” was elected in a special election in October 2015 with 182 votes, 20 more than his nearest competitor in a three-way race.
Nocco said deputies were prepared for the worst when they approached Massad’s house because he was known to use drugs and previously had been charged with domestic violence.
“The reputation was there that you’re not dealing with the most upstanding of elected officials,” he said.