BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy fired his weapon at a vehicle, striking a passenger, after being struck by the vehicle during an early morning drug investigation, according to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
At approximately 1 a.m. Saturday, deputies were conducting an investigation regarding the sale of drugs near 5000 Friday Road in Cocoa.
According to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office, a deputy was acting in an undercover capacity while attempting to purchase drugs from two suspects within a vehicle.
As uniformed deputies approached to secure the scene, the driver of the suspect vehicle disregarded the deputy’s commands and attempted to flee the scene, the statement said.
During this attempt, the driver allegedly accelerated the vehicle in a dangerous manner, striking Deputy Juan Vargas, placing him in fear and forcing him to take immediate action.
Vargas discharged his firearm, striking the vehicle’s passenger. The driver was then apprehended without further incident. The passenger was taken to Holmes Regional Medical Center after receiving one gunshot wound.
The injury is not considered life threatening.
Vargas was taken to Viera Hospital where he was later released. Vargas has been a Brevard deputy since 2005. He is currently assigned to the Tactical Team and is also a member of the SWAT Team.
“Our deputies are trained to respond to deadly situations and must make split second decisions in the worst situations to protect themselves and others,” said Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker via press release. “Deputy Vargas is one of our finest and is highly respected by myself and his peers as an outstanding law enforcement officer. We are very thankful that Deputy Vargas was not seriously injured as a result of the suspect’s actions.”
The driver of the vehicle, Nicholas Lechner, 20, of Cocoa, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer. He is currently being held in the Brevard County Jail Complex on a no-bond status.
The passenger is not being identified at this time.
Deputy Vargas has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. This is a common practice anytime a deputy is involved in a line-of-duty shooting.
The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an independent and parallel investigation regarding the use of force. Further charges relating to both the driver and passenger are pending the investigative findings.