Joseph Robert Bourke Jr., a 34-year-old resident of 130 Breeze Hill in Palm Coast, spent about a third of the last decade in state prison over various sentences–selling cocaine, burglary and other charges. He’s been booked at the Flagler County jail over a dozen times in the same period on charges of violating an injunction, violating his probation, aggravated assault and the charges that led to his prison sentences.
He is known to police as a violent offender, has a conviction for resisting arrest and once deceiving cops, giving them false names when arrested.
On Saturday (April 17), his live-in girlfriend of six months reported to Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies that Bourke was making threats by text that he was about to kill her and would send her family members to the hospital. When a sergeant reached him by phone, Bourke seemed to be inviting suicide by cop: “I ain’t going peacefully. Fuck you, come find me.”
Deputies did, with a contingent of SWAT Team members who, after a three-hour standoff, immobilized Bourke with a non-lethal weapon as he walked out of his house and took him into custody without injuries or further complications. He faces a second-degree felony charge or making threats to kill and a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault. The incident drew a very large police presence and concerns in that part of Palm Coast’s B-Section Saturday afternoon.
Deputies initially responded to an address on Burnett Drive at 12:30 p.m., where his girlfriend met deputies. She described getting into an argument with Bourke the previous day and leaving the house, but continuing to exchange texts with him since. She’d texted him Saturday morning to arrange for her to pick up belongings she’d left behind. Bourke wouldn’t allow her to do so–not “for free,” he told her. He wanted to make her pay for them. She refused and told him she’d get her family and possibly police involved.
Bourke’s attitude then allegedly became hostile. “You’ll be sorry for what you’re doing,” he told her, and: “if any of your family comes to my residence, I’ll send them to the hospital.” He also threatened to fight law enforcement if they showed up at his door, and subsequently said he’d take out his gun and fire at them. The alleged victim showed deputies several text messages that included similar statements claiming Bourke would not control his anger–or his threats: “If I don’t find you and put you in the hospital and destroy everything you own, I’m paying your mom house a visits. I made up my mind you want to threaten me with the cops, I’m make you use card.” (The texts are reproduced here as he wrote them; they are not always coherent.) He went on: “we are going to see who wins tonight,” calling the victim a sexist, derogatory name, “Even if somehow the cops do catch before I destroy your life and everybody’s in your life’s life, I’ll only be gone temporarily you cross the line ain’t no coming back from I’, mf mad and I’m in a rage I want you dead you don’t deserve life you deserve breath you don’t deserve love you’re a mf lie deceiving waste of life.”
In another communication, Bourke said “I can’t leave,” and: “you think i’ll let this slide on the run armed zooted and on a mission I’ll be doing this I’ll catch you before anyone catches me This won’t be a life sentence I’ll see you sooner than later.”
The threats had left the victim in distress. She was in tears and shaking as deputies spoke with her, assuring deputies that she believed he’d go through with his threats “and could kill her if law enforcement did not intervene,” according to his arrest report. It was then, at 2:25 p.m., that the sergeant made contact with Bourke, only to hear Bourke’s potentially suicidal threat to “come find me” (or “find me when you can,” according to 911 notes.)
By then deputies were seeking a warrant for Bourke’s arrest, and had established a perimeter around Bourke’s house, sending out warnings that, though it looked like he wasn’t home, it could have been an ambush. It was about two hours later that deputies detected movement inside when Bourke touched the blinds, seemingly in an effort to look outside. Fire rescue units were parked (or “staged”) on Bren Mar nearby and on Palm Coast Parkway, as authorities prepared for the worst.
Just before 5 p.m., Circuit Judge Terence Perkins signed the arrest warrant. Minutes after 5 p.m., Bourke banged on a window, but he was known to flee outside the back porch, according to deputies who spoke of a previous encounter with him. Deputies made loudspeaker announcements to him.
At 5:10 p.m., Bourke told them he’d put on his clothes and come out, then told them he’d come out in five minutes, but warned that if deputies came in, he would fight them. Minutes later, he was at the window, changing his mind. He wasn’t coming out. The loudspeaker negotiating continued. A few minutes later, he came out the front door, shoved something in his mouth and claimed it was suboxine, a prescription drug usually prescribed to drug addicts as treatment.
A deputy fired a 40mm “sponge round” to immobilize him. The sponge round is a non-lethal weapon law enforcement uses in such situations, and that Flagler deputies have used to de-escalate standoffs. The law enforcement perimeter was broken down at 5:40 p.m. It had involved 26 sheriff’s deputies, including Sheriff Rick Staly, who was at the scene at the time of Bourke’s arrest.
It was the second high-risk incident in 48 hours for Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies. On April 15, 911 got a call of shots being fired from within a house at 1730 Berrybush Street in the Mondex, or Daytona North, where a Vietnam war veteran claimed to deputies afterward that he’d “seen enemy in the treeline” and that he was “ready to go to heaven.” The incident required the deployment of SWAT as well, though the man was taken in peacefully and was Baker Acted.
“Unfortunately law enforcement has become the default mental health agency due to the lack of funding and resources available,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “In these dangerous instances our deputies did a great job using their training to safely de-escalate these incidents and resolve them without anyone being injured. I’m very proud of our team and thank them for successfully resolving back-to-back dangerous encounters.”
The Baker Act and Bourke’s arrest take place at a time when the nation continues to be roiled with deadly officer-involved shootings–64 deaths at the hands of law enforcement since March 29, when testimony in the trial over the George Floyd shooting began, including an officer’s fatal shooting of a 32-year-old man in Jacksonville who authorities said had been grabbing for the officer’s taser.
In contrast, law enforcement in Flagler–the sheriff’s office and the two local police agencies–have gone a decade without a single fatal officer-involved shooting and just one shooting that resulted in a suspect’s injuries (in the Mondex last summer, when the man clearly reached for a gun and attempted suicide by cop, or his own). The sheriff has emphasized non-lethal techniques and the agency’s record, which has included numerous encounters with armed individuals, all of them, with last summer’s exception, ending the way Saturday’s did.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24-hour by calling 800-273-8255. Locally, Stewart-Marchman Act Crisis Center is available. Their crisis line is 800-539-4228 and is available 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency, call 911.