Statement from Police Chief Jason Umberger on traffic stop involving Gregory Howe

Good afternoon. I called this press conference to make a statement concerning the involvement of the DeLand Police Department in yesterday’s incident (5/12/20) where a Deltona man identified as Gregory M. Howe w/m/37 was fatally shot by Volusia County Sheriff’s Deputies in Deltona. 

Let me say from the outset contrary to what some media outlets reported last evening based on information given to them by the Volusia County Sheriff that no DeLand Police officers were involved in any kind of pursuit (not a slow speed pursuit or any speed pursuit which had been reported by some media outlets last evening and this morning). In addition, none of our vehicles were actively following him after he fled the scene of the traffic stop.

The DeLand Police Department’s involvement in our incident was as follows: 

At approximately 2:44 pm on May 12, 2020 DeLand Motor Officer Mike Stacy was monitoring traffic in a stationary patrol at South Florida Avenue facing North at West Beresford Avenue.  He observed a w/m wearing a neon green shirt driving a white GMC truck bearing Florida registration Z619 drive past his location and observed that the driver was not wearing a seatbelt as is required by Florida State statute. Officer Stacy noted in his report that the front driver’s side window was down which gave him a clear and unobstructed view of the driver and the seat belt violation. The vehicle continued west on West Beresford Avenue and then turned south on South Clara Avenue. Officer Stacy decided at this time to conduct a traffic stop of the vehicle for the seat belt violation. Ofc. Stacy activated his lights at the intersection of W. Beresford and S. Clara Avenue as the truck turned onto South Clara Avenue. Officer Stacy noted in his report that as he did this he noticed the driver reaching down and toward the passenger’s side of the vehicle.  The vehicle stopped at West Carter Street and South Clara Avenue.  Officer Stacy approached the driver and engaged in conversation. He asked the driver what he had been reaching for and noted that he seemed nervous and would not respond to his questions.  Officer Stacy was eventually able to obtain his driver’s license and went back to his vehicle to conduct a record’s check on the driver who was identified by his driver’s license as Gregory M. Howe of Haversham Road Deltona DOB; 4/4/83 age 37. The records check revealed that Howe’s driver’s license was currently suspended.  Officer Stacy decided to issue two citations to Howe – one for the seat belt violation (the initial reason for the stop) and another for driving on a suspended license.  As he was writing these citations he had called for an officer to provide back up for him due to the driver’s conduct and evasiveness when asked about what he was reaching for. Officer Stacy completed the citations and approached the driver.  Officer Bice had arrived as backup was also present and observing the interaction.  Officer Stacy explained to Howe that his driver’s license was suspended and asked Howe if someone could drive his truck for him at which time Howe looked directly forward and put his vehicle in drive.  Officer Stacy told Howe, “Don’t do it” at which time Howe ignored his command and drove off.  He fled south through the parking lot striking a log which caused a tire and a hard hat to leave the bed of truck and then he drove out onto South Clara Avenue.  Officer Stacy then got on the radio and transmitted that the vehicle had fled the traffic stop confirming the charge of Fleeing and Eluding and provided the trucks direction of travel.  Officer Stacy also transmitted over the radio that the driver had been reaching for an unknown object during the stop and that he had identified the driver.  The time as noted in the dispatch record of his transmission was 3:01 pm. when the car fled the traffic stop. 

Officer Stacy’s intent initially was to issue the driver citations (one for seat belt and one for License being suspended) and release him. Then when Howe fled he intended to add to the charges Fleeing and Eluding – Fail to Obey Order to Stop and to file all these with the appropriate entities so that Mr. Howe would have to answer for his conduct.

Neither he nor Officer Bice nor any DeLand Police officer attempted to follow or pursue Howe as this is the policy of the DeLand Police Department not to pursue vehicles for civil traffic violations or criminal misdemeanor citations. There are instances where we will pursue fleeing vehicles per our policy but this is not one of them. The purpose of such a policy is that pursuits are dangerous and unpredictable and can create additional risk to the public. Unless certain circumstances or crimes have been committed we do not pursue.  The underlying offense for our traffic stop was a seat belt violation and then we subsequently learned that he was an unlicensed driver (one being a civil infraction and the other being a misdemeanor criminal infraction) both of which were not qualifying offenses for us to engage in a pursuit of that vehicle.  Officer Stacy applied our policy to his situation and did not pursue which was a sound decision. In addition, he had the individual identified and was going to file charges on him anyway as I had stated earlier.   

Both Officer Stacy and Officer Bice then returned to the DeLand Police Department to complete their reports and enter into evidence the tire and hard hat that had fallen from the fleeing vehicle.  While Officer Stacy and Bice were collecting evidence at the scene of the traffic stop Officer Stacy heard a radio transmission that the VSO had located the vehicle. The time noted in dispatch log was 3:03 pm. Transmissions over the radio indicated that the Sheriff’s Department observed the vehicle at 15 A and Woodland Boulevard and this began their involvement in the incident which led them to the front of the man’s home in Deltona where VSO Deputies were involved in the shooting.  

For full transparency we are releasing all our BWC and in-car camera footage to any media outlet who requests it.  It should be noted that had these officers given pursuit as was reported those facts would be noted in the police report and they are not AND we would have in-car video footage of the pursuit because our video is automatically activated when our emergency lights are activated.  No such footage exists of any DeLand Police cars pursuing or following this vehicle because we did not follow nor pursue this vehicle after it fled the traffic stop.  

I will rightly defer all questions concerning what occurred after it fled our traffic stop at 3:01 pm to the Sheriff.  When VSO units became involved with it at 15A and Taylor Road it was 3:03 pm and all the events that transpired after that which led up to the shooting in Deltona were part of the Sheriff’s response.

I want to make a few additional comments concerning our traffic stop and the way Officer Stacy and Officer Bice handled it.

Both Officers conducted themselves in a professional manner and in accordance with all DeLand Police Department policies and procedures. 

This traffic stop underscores the often times unpredictable nature of police work.  Officer Stacy conducted what seemed to be a routine traffic stop and was handling it accordingly save for the furtive movements and suspicious movements and demeanor of Mr. Howe.  Mr. Howe escalated the incident by fleeing and Officer Stacy remained professional and followed departmental policy.  

I am glad that both Officer Stacy and Officer Bice as well as the deputies involved in the shooting are OK and commend them for the job they did yesterday.         

DL200002862 Fleeing Driver Officer Mike Stacy

Body cam from Officer Mike Stacy

DL200002862 Fleeing Driver 1 Officer Brian Bice

Body cam from Officer Brian Bice

Police Chief Jason Umberger statement on traffic stop involving Gregory Howe.

News briefing with Police Chief Jason Umberger