“When that Taser released after five seconds, he came up shooting,” Interim Okaloosa County Sheriff Edward Spooner said.
“He went from just being disagreeable to using deadly force in a matter of seconds. It was a very aggressive move with a concealed weapon on his part.”
Spooner said that between 30 and 40 rounds were exchanged between Cartwright and the two deputies.
Investigators were working to determine the extent of 28-year-old Joshua Cartwright’s military and militia weapons training, Spooner said.
Cartwright was killed by deputies in a neighboring county after he fled a shooting range parking lot near Crestview where he killed deputies Burt Lopez and Warren “Skip” York.
Cartwright’s truck flipped on its side after the tires were punctured by spikes at a roadblock.
“When he had his crash, the truck flipped upside down, nose first and he came out of the backside of the truck firing immediately and using the truck for cover,” Spooner said.
Investigators say Cartwright and deputies exchanged about 60 rounds in 30 to 40 seconds before he was shot and killed. They are awaiting autopsy results to determine whether either of the slain deputies struck Cartwright before they died.
Destiny Harder lived next door to the Cartwrights at their Fort Walton Beach apartment complex.
Harder said she was often disturbed by their loud arguments and had banged on the wall between the two apartments Saturday morning after she was awakened by their fighting.
Neighbor Aaron Walp worked as a bartender at the same Fort Walton Beach bar where Joshua Cartwright was a bouncer two years ago.
“He had a difficult time leaving his personal problems at home. If you gave him a chance he’d start talking,” Walp said.
And Walp said Cartwright’s brooding ways made his fellow employees uncomfortable.
“He had a violent side,” he said.
Cartwright carried a flashlight with a sharp attachment that he threatened to use on customers who got out of line, he said.
In November, when authorities arrested Cartwright for domestic battery, they listed his employer as the U.S. Army Reserves. But Spooner said Cartwright was a member of a Florida National Guard unit based in Crestview. He said Cartwright also was interested in militia groups and weapons training.
Spooner said he did not believe Cartwright was a war veteran, but that investigators are continuing to check his background.
The November domestic charge was pending against Cartwright.
Deputies went to arrest him at the gun range Saturday afternoon after taking a second domestic abuse report from his wife Elizabeth Marie Cartwright, 21, who was being treated for injuries at a local hospital.
“I don’t think they did anything wrong. There was nothing to indicate he would be escalating this to any great level of violence,” Spooner said.
Both deputies were wearing bulletproof vests but were shot in areas not protected by the vests, he said.
The two men were pronounced dead after being airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, about 45 miles away.
The slain deputies, both 45, were retired from the U.S. Air Force. Lopez had five children and York had a 10-year-old son.
On its Web site, the Shoal River Sporting Clays and Shooting Center said it would be closed until Wednesday as a result of Saturday’s shooting.
Capt. J.D. Peacock supervised both men during his 20 years at the sheriff’s office.
Peacock said Lopez was a family man who spent much of his time talking about his children. He said Lopez was especially good at bringing calm to tense situations such as domestic abuse reports.
Peacock rode with York as part of a Harley Davidson motorcycle club that recently took a trip to the Florida Keys.
“He was fun-loving, free spirit,” he said.
Peacock said the department was “numb” from the loss.
“It’s been a rough year and a rough nine months,” he said.
Sheriff Spooner was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to takeover the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office just eight weeks ago after Sheriff Charles Morris was arrested by FBI agents while on a gambling trip to Las Vegas.
Morris and his former office manager, Teresa Adams, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday on theft, money laundering and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say Morris and Adams created fictitious bonuses for sheriff’s department employees then pocketed some of the money.
Spooner spent Sunday morning with the families of the slain deputies and planned to meet with his 370 employees Sunday evening to discuss the shootings.
“I think we need bring everyone together, explain what has happened and make sure their needs are being met,” he said.