RUSKIN, Fla. (WFLA) – An undercover drug deal went horribly wrong at a busy Wendy’s parking lot on Sun City Center Boulevard Tuesday night.
It was supposed to be a routine though it turned out to be anything but.
In the end, both drug dealers were shot after they pulled their guns on the deputies.
Now, questions are being raised about the timing and location of this undercover drug buy.
News Channel 8 is still waiting for a statement from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office but last night, top brass at the scene were quick to defend their actions, essentially saying they play by their drug dealers’ rules.
“Unfortunately this is where drug dealers conduct most of their deals,” said Col. Donna Luscyznski of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“We often do it at the request of where they want to do the deal. We typically do them in open areas so that we have the ability to bring units in and be in close proximity and hidden.”
There’s no question an innocent bystander could have found themselves in the line of fire Tuesday night and that isn’t lost on people who live nearby.
“It shouldn’t have been done in the first place,” said Tonya Colon of Riverview, just across the street from where the shootout took place.
“That is scary, the time of the day. Because it’s like 6 o’clock. It’s dinner time. People are out with their families.”
That may be the case, but most of the people we spoke with agreed with each other saying deputies were just doing their jobs.
“Well, they had to do what they had to do,” Roy Smith, of Sun City Center, told News Channel 8. “The guy pulled a gun on them.”
Dowan Geddes of Ruskin agreed.
“Number one rule is public safety first, because it could have been way worse than what it was,” he said as he pulled out from the parking lot where just hours before, shell casings littered the ground.
Nineteen-year-old Efren Esparza-Lopez was arrested after a brief chase and was later booked into the Orient Road Jail on a laundry list of charges, including four counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Twenty-year-old Luis Gutierrez was also in the car and is now in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital. Charges against him are pending.
Neither man has a prior record with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
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