TAMPA - Three detectives with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are on paid administrative leave, and one is out of the hospital and back home with family, after an undercover drug deal turned deadly Wednesday night.
According to HCSO, one of the detectives was about to purchase crack cocaine from Robert Gary, 31, when Gary tried to rob the detective. They began to fight, and the detective's gun came loose. The two men fell down a staircase and continued to struggle over the gun, which subsequently went off.
Two backup detectives heard the shots fired and raced over. HCSO says the men found Gary standing over their colleague, holding his gun. They ordered him to drop it and he refused, so the detectives fired multiple rounds and killed him.
"I just couldn't believe it. I was about to lose my mind. I was like, 'That's not him. I can't believe that's him,'" cried Robert's sister, Lizzie Gary. "I have people who heard gun shots go off, 'pow pow pow.'"
Lizzie admits her brother has a history of criminal activity. Arrested 27 times as a juvenile, Robert also served 11 sentences as an adult, mostly for drug dealing.
"My brother has a record for dealing drugs before, but that doesn't make him a bad person," Lizzie said.
Lizzie and her family call it a set-up. They believe deputies were out to get Robert as soon as he left prison five months ago.
They say he was trying to turn his life around for his 5-year-old son.
"That is not my brother, and I know that from the bottom of my heart. My brother wouldn't try to take no gun from nobody," said Robert's brother, Dallas Gillyard. "They took my baby brother. They killed my baby brother, straight up."
But detectives say Robert had 2 bags of what appeared to be crack cocaine. They feared for their life.
Though HCSO will only say detectives fired multiple rounds, the medical examiner is performing an autopsy to determine exactly how many times Robert was shot.
Those in Robert's family say he was slaughtered.
"They got bullet holes shooting this way. They've got bullet holes shooting up. They've got bullet holes shooting to the side," Gillyard said. "He is not not the type of person to try and snatch a gun from a police officer. If he's doing something wrong and the police come, he's going to try to break and run."