Exclusive — Sheriff Gregory Tony discusses fatal shooting incident: ‘Worst day of my life’
Broward cities are starting to push back on Gregory Tony’s leadership, or lack thereof. Image via AP.

Gregory Tony
Tony was let off after shooting a man when he was 14 years old. Tony says the 1993 incident was self-defense.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony is speaking out after a Florida Bulldog report detailed a 1993 incident where the 14-year-old Tony shot and killed a man in an altercation.

Tony says that incident was not disclosed to Gov. Ron DeSantis before he was appointed head of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) in 2019.

Tony was effectively acquitted in the incident, which left 18-year-old Hector Rodriguez dead. Though there are contemporaneous newspaper reports of the shooting at the time, Tony had thus far not spoken about the incident in public.

But Saturday, the Sheriff issued a statement to the Bulldog in response to the report. “When I was 14 years old, growing up in a neighborhood in Philadelphia filled with violence and gang activity, I shot an armed man in self-defense. The juvenile authorities reviewed my actions and cleared my name,” Tony said.

“This was the most difficult and painful experience of my life and I have never spoken of it publicly. I worked every day from that time forward to leave the violence that surrounded me in Philadelphia behind.”

Now, Tony is talking to Florida Politics in response to questions surrounding the incident.

A Philadelphia Daily News report shortly after the shooting said police were unaware of the motive. But the outlet cited “word on the street” to report that “some light-hearted joking between the two friends had turned ugly,” leading to the shooting.

Tony says he and Rodriguez were not friends.

“Hector Rodriguez lived in my neighborhood — he lived maybe a block away, but we were not friends,” Tony said.

“He was two or three years older than me. He always carried a gun, dealt drugs, and was involved in gun violence.”

The Philadelphia Daily News report cited the victim’s mother saying Rodriguez had made a joke about Tony’s uncles, which prompted Tony to go inside and retrieve his father’s gun.

Tony did concede there was an argument, but says Rodriguez pulled a gun first and made a threat.

“The day of the incident, Hector, my brother and I were all in front of our house when we got into an argument. At one point, he pulled his gun threatening us, saying he didn’t have any issues with shooting us there,” Tony said, before the story gets a bit fuzzier.

“I don’t remember the specific details, but I remember how scared I was when he chased me and my brother into our house, I ran to grab my father’s gun and fired it before Hector was able to shoot his gun. Both me and my brother left the house, as we were afraid his friends could retaliate. After ensuring there wasn’t an imminent threat for me and my brother, my dad took us both down to the police station, so we could give a statement of what had happened.”

That accounting is disputed by Rodriguez’ then-girlfriend, who was 17 at the time. Now 44, Maritza Carrasquillo told the Bulldog that Rodriguez was not armed.

“Hector didn’t have a weapon on him that I’m aware of, and I never saw him with a weapon,” she said.

Tony’s attorney argued he acted in self-defense. After successfully moving the case to juvenile court, Tony was found to be not at fault.

“Because of the disposition of the case there are no records,” Tony said. “To the best of my knowledge, no records remain and I have recently spoken to the attorney who represented me at the time and he doesn’t have any documents on the case either.”

The Bulldog was also unable to obtain those court records.

Gov. Ron DeSantis named Tony Sheriff following the suspension of now-former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. Prior to taking that job, Tony served as a Sergeant in the Coral Springs Police Department.

Responding to questions from Florida Politics, Tony says he has never disclosed the incident during his law enforcement career.

“I have never disclosed it, because I was never arrested,” Tony explained.

“Under Pennsylvania law, juveniles are not arrested, they go through a petition of delinquency. It never came up on my background checks or clearances, since I was a juvenile and I didn’t commit a crime, as it was self-defense.”

Tony extended that rationale through the Governor’s 2019 selection of Tony as Broward Sheriff.

“I did not disclose this specific incident to Governor DeSantis prior to his selection, but he is well aware of my past and how I grew up and how that prompted me to dedicate my life to service,” Tony said.

“I didn’t want to always be defined as the victimized teenager that had to shoot someone in self-defense. I wanted to be defined by my accomplishments as an adult. I have never mentioned it publicly, because of the reasons I explained before. I have since discussed it with him and he is aware of the incident.”

Tony did not directly answer whether he had any previous run-ins with law enforcement that have not been disclosed.

“I had many positive interactions with law enforcement growing up that made me realize the important role we play in a community. I chose to follow their path instead of falling into the violence in my neighborhood, and I have worked hard every day of my life to leave the past behind.”

Tony recalls his neighborhood — nicknamed the Badlands — being one of the rougher portions of Philadelphia during the 1990s.

“It was an extremely violent environment, the crack epidemic completely overruled the neighborhood,” Tony said.

“We all lived in very close proximity in small houses and gun violence was the norm of the day. I witnessed shootings, murders, drug dealing. I saw a good friend shot in the face, survived multiple home invasions, bullets coming through windows, and was at some point pistol whipped for my sneakers.

“I was afraid every day. It was unpredictable as to whether or not we were going to survive.”

The Sheriff says that experience drove him to escape, and he used the route of law enforcement to do so.

“The impact of this shooting was devastating for me, but it was also an eye-opening experience for me to get out. Many who didn’t, became another statistic for black men in my community ending up dead or in prison,” Tony explained.

“I was so committed to leaving, that I left Philadelphia with less than $500 and I never looked back. I didn’t know where Tallahassee was on a map and I had never been on a plane, but I knew that by working two jobs I could figure out a way to get there. I took a leap of faith to escape that environment.”

Tony is one of 11 candidates competing for the Sheriff’s role in 2020. His predecessor, Scott Israel, is part of that field as well. The two have been the top fundraisers in the contest, with Tony edging Israel by a $152,000 to $131,000 margin. No other candidate has topped $70,000 raised.

Israel has a polarizing history of his own as he seeks to get his job back. He was suspended due to BSO’s handling of the Parkland shooting and Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting. Israel came under fire after Deputy Scot Peterson, who was serving as the school resource officer on the day of the shooting, failed to confront the shooter. Investigations found several other BSO deputies also did not urgently enter the building.

The Florida Senate ultimately upheld that suspension and removed Israel by a 25-15 vote.

When asked by Florida Politics, Tony said the revelation of this incident would “absolutely not” affect his decision to seek election to the post in 2020.

“I understand how politics work and that this 27-year-old story is coming up in an effort to smear my name and damage my reputation,” Tony asserted.

“I took on this job to protect and serve this community and I am committed to continue doing so. Our accomplishments during the past 15 months are a clear indication of what can be done when you put law enforcement over politics. This community deserves better than political agendas and people seeking to benefit themselves.”

He continued, “This incident has never and will never impact my ability to do my job. If anything, I understand better the thousands that fall victim to gun violence each year. My background is what has inspired me to serve the community I love and always fight for justice. I am proud of the work we’ve done and I know we can continue serving the community.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


29 comments

  • Diogenes

    May 2, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    This is poorly written. Very poorly written. And the sheriff, if accurately quoted, lacks command of the language. Not good for a leader in law enforcement. His work so far already reveals he is a C- sheriff. The sheriff should move on. He has proven he is unqualified. The governor should be ashamed for appointing him. There were far better choices.

  • Jungle Lotus

    May 2, 2020 at 9:21 pm

    The Sheriff executed this Hispanic kid pure and simple! The threat was over after the first shot but Tony told everyone to back off from helping the kid and then walked up and put 5 more rounds in his head??? He executed that kid! It’s Philadelphia! Just another Jesse Smollette Case!!!

    • Yvette Coley

      May 4, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      Firstly, if you have not walked in the Sheriff’s shoes have remotely been in those unfortunate predicaments the sheriff has experienced, you will never know where he’s coming from nor have an understanding. Unequivocally, the uneventful situation changed his life to influence and construct better outcomes for himself and others.

      Secondly, I know you don’t care. You don’t care at all, which is excellent!

      Thirdly, you stated, “The sheriff should move on. He has proven he is unqualified. The governor should be ashamed for appointing him. There were far better choices.” Honestly, what you are conveying in the gestalt is that Donald Trump should have given up being the president of America along time ago. Respectively, I admire both men (others) who do not give up easily. But, to obtain a logical understanding, one must possess an open-mind, mental competence, and the spiritual capacities/abilities to see things with a clear-eye view

      From a psychological perspective, the sheriff did his best to recall a 27-year-old incident when he was a 14-year-old male, which entails him mentally reverting retrospectively to that 14-year-old boy. As a result, he unambiguously reiterates the uneventful phenomenon. According to the source, He and brother are chased inside their home, reiterate, their home; Hernandez makes himself an intruder.

      Perhaps, Hernandez attacks the brother first, vehemently provoking fear in S. Tony and allowing him time to obtain the weapon to defended himself/brother. Undoubtedly, the worse and possible scenario was getting violently harmed or killed by the 18-year-old adult male. Further, the girlfriend from the past states, “Hector didn’t have a weapon on him that I’m aware of, and I never saw him with a weapon.” Yet, her statement does not exclude the fact that Hernandez was 18 years old , and Tony was 14 years old, perhaps concluding Hernandez could’ve killed Tony and brother with his bare hands. Therefore, self-defense is self-defense.

      Below is a link of an 11-year-old male who killed an intruder. Now, if he wants to become a police officer and run for sheriff one day, should he be discouraged from moving on?

      https://youtu.be/G7OshCHsfJI

  • Harry

    May 2, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    The Sheriff could have spared that young man life. He said the kid was armed but he couldn’t justify that the kid fired even one shot. The Sheriff was dead wrong. He did not have to execute the poor kid.
    Call it what it is. The Sheriff is rogue, the Sheriff is a murderer.

  • Kelly

    May 2, 2020 at 11:47 pm

    See how they dug up dirt on the black man?He was a young kid only 14,anything to tarnish the black man cause he suspended the Union President Payback time

    • Get Shorty

      May 4, 2020 at 5:17 pm

      Zzzzzzzzzzzz, that old chestnut.

  • c.d. kelly

    May 3, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Scott Israel is the one who belongs in JAIL. 1st degree reckless endangerment–grave indifference to human life. Life was taken as a direct result of the nonfeasence and malfeasement along with the criminality of a disgraced P O S. Israel is a political hack that even with all his aipac connections can not get that job he tarnished so badly.Scott Israel is sociopathic scum. Put this guy on the ash heap of history and let those peoples families heal.

  • Andre

    May 3, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    How did he get passed the background checks at Coral Springs and make sergeant, that’s the real question …

    • Kat

      May 3, 2020 at 8:59 pm

      Precisely, you cant even get into college with a murder on your record! Isnt the question were you ever charged with a felony, and he said no!

      • Fred

        May 4, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        You can’t read either

    • Fred

      May 4, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      You can’t read can you

    • Yvette Coley

      May 4, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      It’s clearly stated about the background check in the article.

  • perry l

    May 3, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    went and got the gun…..shot him 6 times…….. angry execution not self defense……

  • Dennis Freckleton

    May 3, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    The system said he was not guilty 27 years ago. I don’t care about his color, I care about the fact that the system said he was not guilty and the fact that he was only 14. Why should that incident define his life instead of the hard work over the last 27 years? Most state should allow juvenile to get a fresh start especially when they are found innocent. Far too many black are unable to move on because the system is designed to prevent them from doing so. His incident from 27 years ago should not influence our vote but instead his work over the last few years.

  • Danielle

    May 4, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    Leave him alone….he’s doing a great job. The court found him not guilty so let it be. If America have the nerve to vote for Trump anyone should be able to fulfill their social duty. I said what I said!!! Leave that black man alone

  • James White

    May 4, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    This is Obvious Racism, because you people cant stand to see a Black man in this position. But guess what, we are not idiots. Im a white male and i will votr for him, so he will br incharge for a very long time. So what you need to do is go dig up dirt on the 90% of Racist Police in Florida and their Dirty Backgrounds.

    • Kellyanne

      May 4, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      I knew this would Happen sooner or later. I could see the Hatred in you Racist Police Associations people face when you came out to do your BS Speech about him. Hes doing an Absolute Great job so leave him alone you White Devi!s

  • Fred

    May 4, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    Jungle lotus you’re a fool, you probably grew up in the suburbs on a cul-de-sac. You don’t have a clue to what it means to live in the inner city of Philadelphia in the 90s . He could’ve easily become a thug but he became a policeman to help the community and to pay it forward. Go figure.
    What have you been doing for the community?

  • Sandy White

    May 4, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Here we go again these evil people and so much hate in their hearts. We all should be trying to get closer to God and loving each. I agree leave him alone he’s done more for the people than anyone else so far.

  • Gwen

    May 4, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Everyone deserve a second chance I think he is doing a good job some people always trying to to defeat and destroy others when they need to clean up their own backyard if you bring some one in to clean up the mess was the problem some people never see the good in people 😡 they always like to see the worsted pray learn to accept the things that you cannot change God bless 😇🙏 stop the hate

  • Kirk Williams

    May 4, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Good Try I will still vote for Sherrif Gregory Tony. I could care less about dirty politics. This has been the best decision The Governer has made so far since he been in office. 99.9% of Florida Sheriffs have very dark Pasts so how about we start releasing those also, start with the dirty cops who launched this campaign. No one falls for smear campaignd anymore, we are going to judge you our self based on what we have seen and known so far. So good try. If you cant stand to see this man lead, then quit and go home and cry to your racist daddy. Period!

    • Lorraine Green

      May 4, 2020 at 5:01 pm

      Leave the man alone! He is doing good with his life. If everyone got judged on what they did at, lot of you wouldn’t have a job. How many innocent teenagers have the cops killed..he is definitely getting my vote!! Btw..stop calling my house for donation to the PBA! Won’t donate until you clean up your act!

      • Brittney Brokheimer

        May 4, 2020 at 5:19 pm

        This is Absolutely Disgusting. The Current complete Police Union should be FIRED! Now. And I hope the Governer will look into this. Ive been in South Florida since 1998 and I can sear by it, Sheriff Gregory Tony has been the Best Sheriff we have had and this is coming from a White Female of the oposite party. This man has done so much since he became sheriff. But i knew they would try to oust him when he started cleaning up the force since day one. He fired many unprofessional, dirty and racist police officers,and since then the Union has started to target him. They really think WE THE PEOPLE havent noticed this? Well we have and your dirty politics will not be accepted, infact i will personally start a petition to have the police union all removed and replaced.

        • Guest

          May 5, 2020 at 9:43 am

          I remember the incident where those cops pepper sprayed the teenage boy in Miramar and body slammed him to the concrete and just started smashing the boys face to ground. This was all caught on video. The blk community came to Toney for justice and he turned his back on us. Now he wants to come back to same community for help. What goes around comes around. Israel wouldve handle situation better. No Toney you are out for self. Instead of speaking up against police brutality which is what we as a blk community needs from blk sheriffs everywhere. You were worried about losing your job if you spoke out against the police who brutally beat that blk boy. So you did nothing, now when you are about to lose your job to that same racist police force, you come to us for help. We say to you… N Word please!

    • Mark Bloomberg

      May 4, 2020 at 5:05 pm

      First your Racist Police union came up with a obvious fake vote against the Sheriff. So that didnt work so you had to try again. Well guess what you Scum, this will not work either, infact it will backfire, because now we really see how much Politics and Racism is involved in this. No one heard anything from the Police Union when Scott Israel was in charge, nor did we hear from you when an Innocent black man laying on the ground with his hands up trying to protect a child he was in care of was shot by one of you Racist Police. Neither did we hear from you when a innocent black man was shot in his head and killed in his car after the police asked him to reach for his drivers license. Where were you, but we all saw the evil looks on your faces when you came out to do a pressconference against the Sheriff. We will be voting for him, so you can all just quit now and go find a job in Alambama or South Carolina with your confederate brothers, because we are not having that in Florida anymore.

  • Jeremy wockovits

    May 4, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    Good Try the so called “Police Union” Good Try. Have you seen Scott Israel’s past. If you haven’t just shut the hell up. Because i havent heard of you people until a black man was in charge and we will keep him in there, and this is coming from a white x-cop. So maybe you Morons should get out of the office and go do some real work instead of playing on your computers everyday. #fakepoliceunion

    • Sylvia Brown

      May 4, 2020 at 5:53 pm

      This is why the world is in a pandemic now because of all the hatred and white people calling right wrong and wrong right. To much hating on people of color.were any of these people there when this incident happen 27 years ago just like Jesus Christ said he that is without sn cast the first stone and one could why because we all have sin and come short.

  • Tom

    May 4, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    It doesn’t matter how you say it .
    If it is poorly written or not .
    The point is to write it and tell the truth.

Comments are closed.


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