Fatal shooting by deputies capped desperate man’s crime spree

The Last Day of Byron O’Shea


Byron O’Shea adjusted his hoodie and sunglasses and stepped into the dimly lighted pub. It was about 4 a.m. on May 12.

“This is a robbery. Not a homicide,” he announced, his handgun aimed at the head of one of two bartenders. Some two dozen patrons watched, frozen.

Soon, hundreds of dollars were stuffed in O’Shea’s pocket and he was out the door and in his car. As he raced east down Okeechobee Boulevard, he likely saw the flashing red lights coming up on him, and fast.

His day would go downhill from there.

About 13 hours later, the 46-year-old would be dead, shot by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies in a volley that left a slug from his gun in the haunch of a police dog. In between, authorities say, he’d lead a chase, crash his car, shoot at police and hijack another car. Moments before his death, his family would say, he’d told his mother he’d rather die than go back to the lockup.

Local and state authorities still won’t release some details, saying either that they don’t want to reveal their invesitgative ways or that they’re barrred by the unfinished investigation into those last few minutes when O’Shea died.

What has filtered out, along with information from documents and from O’Shea’s relatives and others, paints a picture of a man who loved the ocean, fishing and family but who, early on, was driven by alcohol and drugs to a dark place from which he never climbed out.

His sister says she’d feared for a while that his life would end the way it did, in what the family believes was a “suicide by cop.”

To get the drugs he craved, O’Shea “was just going to keep on going, whether he carjacked cars, robbed businesses or robbed citizens. So this is a very dangerous individual who now is off the street,” Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said that Friday, after O’Shea was killed in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Jupiter.

O’Shea’s family “100 percent do not hold the (sheriff’s office) in any way responsible. This is what my brother wanted. He was ready to go,” his sister, Stacey Reilley, told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday

She said her brother was “an amazing writer and highly intelligent” and would earn a GED and a paralegal degree in prison. But, she said, in prison he didn’t lose access to drugs. On the contrary, she said. They were as easy for him to get as cigarettes and playing cards.

“My brother has done horrible things to keep feeding his addiction. He never wanted to hurt anyone,” Reilley said. “There was a wonderful, loving, compassionate side of him. The drugs were just consuming him. And drugs came first.”

“All in”

Just before 8 p.m. that Friday, TV cameras zoomed in on Phillip Byron O’Shea’s face, looking out from a printout in the hand of the sheriff.

Had the photo shown O’Shea’s entire body, it would have displayed an anchor and clover on his chest. A left arm emblazoned with faces and a spider web and the word “sick.” A right arm showing playing cards and a lady with a gun and flames and the phrase “all in.” And a back displaying a demon, a lion, a skull and the man’s name: “O’Shea.”

By contrast, a well-groomed 17-year-old Phillip Byron O’Shea — his sister says everyone called him by his middle name — gives a tight-lipped, shy smile in the sophomores section of the 1988 John I. Leonard High School yearbook. The black-and-white photo from 1988 doesn’t show the West Palm Beach native’s brown hair and green eyes.

By the 1989 yearbook for the Greenacres school, his name does not appear in the index. His sister says he’d slipped into drug use and dropped out.

“When he was 16, it was weed,” Stacey Reilley said. “My brother was addicted since then.”

In March 1990, at 19, he suffered a head injury when his motorcycle and a car collided, and he later was hit with a lien from Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach for an unpaid $1,132 bill. Records don’t show how that was resolved.

The next year, his sister says, his fiancee was killed in a car wreck, and “he took a turn for the worse.”

In January 1991, he was convicted for burglary of a dwelling.

Then, in July 1991, he made the newspaper.

Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies said he robbed a house and as he tried to flee in an owner’s car, a friend of the victim tried to block O’Shea’s way and O’Shea struck the man. O’Shea later was convicted on several counts of aggravated battery, burglary of a structure, grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

Three years later, O’Shea was convicted of DUI.

Then, in November 1994, while living in an apartment in Palm Beach, he was arrested for armed robbery, grand theft and two counts of aggravated assault, including aggravated assault with a firearm on a law-enforcement officer. West Palm Beach police said he followed three men from Club Diamonds on Congress Avenue to a nearby Waffle House, then robbed one of them at gunpoint of a Rolex watch and the keys to his Mercedes. Authorities said he fired at one of the witnesses and pointed his pistol at officers.

A year later, in September 1995, a federal judge sentenced him to 16½ years after he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon.

In May 1996, he transferred to state prison to finish serving the state convictions. In the three years he was in South Bay Correctional Institute in Belle Glade, he was cited for fighting and alcohol use.

On Sept. 23, 1997, he married Bonnie Jean Rock at South Bay. A prison chaplain officiated. He and Bonnie would divorce in 2002. She couldn’t be reached by The Post for comment.

“He wanted her to go with her life,” Reilly said. “He loved her enough to let her go.”

The divorce decree gives O’Shea’s address as a federal lockup in north-central Florida. He’d gone there from South Bay to finish the rest of his federal firearms sentence.

In January 2010, now out of prison and living west of Boynton Beach, he was arrested for battery, aggravated assault and kidnapping. A Palm Beach County sheriff”s report says he threw a beer bottle at his live-in girlfriend and threw her down as she tried to leave.

Prosecutors later declined to file charges. Then a federal court in Fort Lauderdale ruled O’Shea had violated the conditions of his release in the federal firearms conviction, and he was sent back to the federal lockup for 14 months, followed by another two years of supervised release.

In April 2012, the sheriff’s office said, he and another man were charged with robbing an acquaintance of a Rolex watch and a gold necklace, valued at a total of $15,000. A report said the two alleged robbers “are known personal friends with known drug addictions.”

O’Shea went back to state prison from June to November 2013. When he got out, grandmother Doris Edwards said, “he went for several jobs, and they said there was no work.” She said no one would hire a felon.

So Byron went to North Carolina.

His sister says his mother had a service business with clients in the Raleigh area, and he headed to the capital city to do work for her. But things soon went sour there as well.

Twice in 2014, on Aug. 22 and on Christmas Day, Phillip was arrested in nearby Cary, N.C, for driving while impaired. In July 2015, he was booked in Raleigh on a similar charge. He later was convicted of aggravated DUI in the Raleigh arrest and began what would be a seven-month sentence. In March 2016, he was busted again, in Raleigh, for resisting an officer.

At some point after that, he fell in with Kyle Robert Fedus. The 29-year-old also was a familiar face at North Carolina county and state lockups. On May 2, police allege, the two took $570 from Hitesh Patel at the Super 8 motel that Patel owns in Raleigh. Patel said Monday he did not want to comment except to say he was not hurt.

Wake County, N.C., authorities issued a warrant for O’Shea and his pal Fedus. Records show Fedus was arrested and charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon. But where was Phillip O’Shea?

A few days later, everyone would find out.

That Friday morning

At 4 a.m. Friday, the late-night crowd was winding down at Duggan’s Pub & Grill, a neighborhood hangout at Okeechobee Boulevard and Haverhill Road in suburban West Palm Beach. Within an hour, the bar was set to do its nightly two-hour closing to clean up. The owner would say later she’d been there seven years and never had trouble.

Then, authorities said, Byron O’Shea walked in.

Moments later, he was gone, but not before a patron had run after him and got enough details about his car to describe it to deputies. Almost simultaneously, bartenders had dialed 911. The sheriff’s office said a patrol car was nearby and soon spotted O’Shea’s fleeing car, a red, 4-door Mercury owned by his grandmother.

Deputies say O’Shea raced the red car down Okeechobee for about 2 miles, then turned right on Church Street into an industrial park about a half-mile west of Interstate 95 and just south of the West Palm Beach city limits. More sheriff’s cars joined the chase. It lasted a matter of minutes. They said his car flipped and slammed into a fence and he came out shooting.

Three deputies shot back: Robert Jacques, on the force since 2015, and Dustin Sullivan and Jorge Gomez, hired in 2016. Sulllivan hurt his shoulder diving for cover. Local media would incorrectly report he’d been shot, but he escaped serious injury and by 8 a.m. was out of a hospital; the sheriff’s won’t say which one.

Deputies blocked off the Church Street entrance from Okeechobee as they swarmed the labyrinth of warehouses, alleys and side streets that stretches nearly all the way to Palm Beach International Airport. Some parked cruisers sideways and stood in front of them, rifles cradled in arms, turning away workers who’d arrived to load up produce for area diners or auto parts for awaiting dealerships, or to finish buffing the bumper of that luxury car.

As the workers stewed, people in nearby neighborhoods heard helicopters buzz overhead and were rattled around 6:30 a.m. by telephone “robocalls” telling them to stay inside because a dangerous person was on the loose.

By then, O’Shea might well have been long gone.

Two hours after the chase, the sheriff’s office says, he relieved a woman of her car at gunpoint near Palm Beach International Airport. The agency won’t identify the woman, who was not hurt, or describe the car.

The final scene

And deputies, citing investigative practices, would not say what led them to O’Shea, or what occurred in the several hours between then and when deputies encountered him in the parking lot near the Wood Duck apartments, a low-income complex on Military Trail south of Toney Penna Drive.

Nor has the sheriff’s office said what happened next, about 5:10 p.m. Except that three deputies and O’Shea traded fire — O’Shea fired first — and at least one bullet struck the haunch of a police dog named Casper.

The three deputies were tactical agents Nicholas Lentini, hired in 2003, and Todd Romagnoli, who joined in 1999, and “K9” deputy Charles Hardy, at the department since 2000.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been brought in to investigate the deputies’ actions. That agency will not provide any information at this time.

The sheriff’s office says it is looking into whether O’Shea committed other crimes in the area.

“Looked to me like he (O’Shea) was involved in robberies (and) using that money to buy narcotics,” Bradshaw told reporters that night. “He obviously was not going to be taken alive.”

Reilley said her mother was on the phone with O’Shea, who told her he’d been awake for several days, and who said he was not going back to jail. The family says he told his mother goodbye, and she then heard shots.

“He knew as soon as he shot that bullet, the police would kill him. He chose to die,” grandmother Doris Edwards said. “He shot low and hit the dog. They killed him. That was his choice.”

All six deputies were placed on administrative leave, as part of PBSO policy following shootings involving its officers. Casper went under the knife at Palm Beach Veterinary Specialists in suburban West Palm Beach and went home the next day.

Phillip Byron O’Shea’s funeral was set for Saturday.

“My brother is at peace now,” Reilley said, “and no longer has to fight the demons that controlled him.”

Staff resarcher Melanie Mena and staff writers Susan Salisbury and Hannah Winston contributed to this story.

Staff resarcher Melanie Mena and staff writers Susan Salisbury and Hannah Winston contributed to this story.



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