SEBRING — This morning, Nov. 13, at 12:55 a.m., the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a subject named Julio Garcia, age 46. Garcia reported to our communication center that he was involved in a domestic situation where he battered his girlfriend at a home on Jacklin Avenue. He advised he had a firearm and was going to the nearby Circle K, located at the intersection of Hammock Road and Jacklin Avenue in Sebring, for the purpose of shooting people.
Garcia is known to law enforcement within Highlands County as he has a very lengthy criminal history and has attempted suicide by cop a few different times since March of this year. As recently as October of this year, Garcia was arrested for misuse of 911 regarding a suicide by cop attempt and on Oct. 27, the HCSO took Mr. Garcia into protective custody under a Baker Act, again for a suicide by cop attempt.
The 911 call this morning was dispatched at 12:56 a.m. and two deputies arrived on scene at 1:02 a.m. Once on scene, the deputies located Garcia on Jacklin Avenue, which is on the east side of the convenience store. According to witnesses on scene, Garcia was walking towards the store parking lot and was pointing what they thought was a firearm at the deputies.
The deputies made initial contact with Garcia and gave him verbal commands. Witnesses say he took an aggressive stance with what appeared to be a firearm, pointing it at the deputies. Both deputies drew their agency-issued firearms, shooting and striking Garcia in the upper body area, reporting shots fired at 1:03 a.m. First aid was provided to Garcia and he was transported to a local hospital and is currently listed in stable condition.
Once the scene was made safe and Garcia was attended to, it should be noted no firearm was located. At this point, it appears Garcia was holding and pointing his cell phone at the deputies as if it was a firearm. This morning, Garcia has been charged with several crimes and once booked in for those criminal charges he will be taken into protective custody, again for a mental health Baker Act.
As is the case with any deputy-involved shooting, both members have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an independent investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State’s Attorney Office of the 10th Judicial Circuit.
In closing, mental health and the awareness of your mental health is so important. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, others, or using a law enforcement officer as a means of committing suicide, please seek out someone, a church, a friend or a family member, for help. Help is truly only a phone call away. Allow someone to help you with what is causing you these feelings. Suicide is never the answer.