Last Updated: 5:50 p.m.
Julie Ann Demers, a 43-year-old woman who held Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies, including units of the SWAT team, in a seven-hour standoff shot herself after she exited her house and dove into her pool at 112 Emerald Lake Drive in Palm Coast Plantation.
Deputies jumped to her rescue and firefighters-paramedics transported her to AdventHealth Palm Coast, from where she was flown to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach with a severe head injury. She died at Halifax around 5 p.m.
“This was the most difficult situation since I have been sheriff, but this is what we train for,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “We pray we never have to use it, and we certainly pray that we have a different outcome, but this was a tough case, primarily because it was one-sided communication.”
Deputies had been called to the house before 8 this morning in response to a domestic situation that at one point involved Demers holding her husband hostage at gunpoint. A 16-year-old child was also in the house, hiding, but both husband and child safely left the house as the standoff began. Demers never communicated with the sheriff’s negotiations teams despite numerous efforts and means used.
“We tried to negotiate for about 7 hours,” Sheriff Rick Staly, who’d been at the scene throughout, said this evening. “She was refusing to talk to us at all from the very beginning. We sent in a robot with communications, we sent in remote telephones, we tried calling her cell phone and texting her and she refused to answer any of them. We had observations, so we knew that she was having a mental health episode and she was armed and based on what we could see, we knew that she was extremely dangerous to herself and potentially to neighbors and deputies that were there.”
Sheriff’s deputies were assisted with drones from the the county and Flagler County Fire Rescue.
“We had about 40 deputies on the scene, from our SWAT team to crisis negotiations team to patrol deputies on the perimeters,” Staly continued. “We also knew that a little over a year ago she did a similar incident with Brevard County, so we communicated with Brevard County on how their negotiations, which lasted nine hours, worked, and we knew from that intelligence information that she wasn’t going to be cooperative. At the very end the decision was made to use our tactical tear gas to keep her out of the second floor, because that was even more dangerous for neighbors and deputies, and then ultimately we deployed tear gas into where she was. She never once dropped the firearm that she had.”
The final minutes unfolded after 2:20 p.m. “She walked out into the lanai, into the pool, we used less lethal weapons on her, that had no success, even though we knew she was struck by the less lethal weapons, and then she shot herself–in the pool.” the sheriff said. “Two of our SWAT team members immediately jumped in the pool with their gear on and pulled her out, and immediately began life saving measures.” Rescuers who had been staging nearby arrived, continued the life-saving measures and took her to AdventHealth, from where Flagler County FireFlight, the emergency helicopter, flew her to Halifax.
Two gunshots were fired from inside the house at different times during the standoff, but not at deputies.
The situation caused deputies to advise residents in neighboring homes on the heavily built up street to shelter in place in rooms away from those facing 112 Emerald, which was surrounded by deputies.
“I ask that you remain out of this area from 80 to 120” Emerald Lake Drive, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said in a video statement before noon. Staly, who was himself a Palm Coast Plantation resident before he was sheriff, directed residents of the gated community to contact the Sheriff’s Office’s non-emergency line to get escorts in or out of the area.
A gunshot went off from inside the home before 10 a.m. and another shot was heard around 10:30. The house being as large as it is–over 5,000 square feet–deputies initially had difficulties getting eyes on the victim, but were seen deploying a robot that was to transmit live images from within, then drones that flew around the house.
“We have no idea how long this incident is going to take,” Staly said around noon. “Our goal is to rescue everybody unharmed. We already have two of the parties in the house out and we’re trying to work on de-escalating what is going on inside this house for a safe resolution to this incident. I will come back to you as soon as I can. We’ve been on the scene for almost four hours now trying to work it.”
At the end of the day, Staly–who at that could not confirm Demers’s death but was aware of the severity of the wound–was addressing the matter more somberly. “It’s a tragic ending to a very long day, not an ending that any of us were hoping for,” he said. “As you know, we have a very successful track record of deescalating these situations but that requires communications, and based on what we knew from the Brevard County situation, we knew it would only be resolved by a tactical response.” The Sheriff’s Office has for over 10 years de-escalated almost every situation it’s faced with armed individuals, once in that time span losing a man who shot himself on Point Pleasant Drive, and once having to shoot an individual in his car, who was armed and threatening to shoot others. That man was not killed, and he recovered. Deputies have not been involved in any police-initiated shooting resulting in a fatality in those 10 years. Deputies did not fire guns today. (Staly soon afterward confirmed Demers’s death)
“There were many opportunities for her to communicate with us. Not one time did she ever take her hand off the gun,” Staly said, noting that deputies during the day had received information that Demers had received tactical training in the past. As the day wore on, the deputies had secured a warrant for Demers’s arrest on charges of aggravated assault and false imprisonment, which became moot.
“We express our deepest sympathy to the family, but we’re glad that she did not hurt them or any deputies,” Staly said. “It’s just not the outcome that we trained for, that we want, but in these situations, when people are determined, we can’t control that outcome.”
Why doesn’t staly get a life and let his deputies do their job. He’s nothing but a glory hound working toward the next election!!!
Why gas and then use force on a person who is alone in a house and not a threat to others who may be suicidal. All the surrounding houses were evacuated. I’m sorry but this was pushed to hard.
When you have an unstable individual with documented mental health issues, who is armed with a gun no less, who held her husband at gunpoint and both the husband and their child had to hide inside the house to avoid being hurt by her, and escaped when law enforcement arrived, how in the world can you be of the opinion that she was not a threat to others? Sorry, but your opinion makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, thank God nobody else was hurt, but law enforcement and other emergency responders who have to deal with her while she is holding a gun and threatening suicide have no idea what to expect and they are trained and handle mental health cases on a regular basis. Do you have training and experience with people who have mental health issues? Do you have any clue how their desire to kill themselves could, and often do, end up with being a “suicide by cop” incident because they want to die but are to afraid to end their life and would rather law enforcement shoot them instead? Many times, the individual takes the first shot at the nearest law enforcement officer just to prompt a shooting to kill that person, so not only is your comment without merit, it is ludicrous to not acknowledge the danger that law enforcement and emergency responders face when responding to an individual who has mental health issues AND is armed with a weapon. You want to do what you can to end the situation peacefully, but you certainly don’t take any chances with someone like that, and you DON’T ever assume they are only dangerous to themself, because that assumption can get you or someone else killed.
Time Should Be On Your Side says
“Patience” is offering the observation that BCSO achieved a positive outcome by waiting while FCSO tactically rushed to create the very scenario you decry — flushing the individual out of the home to create a confrontation with law enforcement. All those anecdotal statements of many times this and often that cannot hide the fact that any threat was contained and everyone was still alive until FCSO’ tactical gas deployment.
Concerned Citizen says
My condolences to the family for their loss. My heart is with everyone involved in this tragic situation.
I want to throw this out there to everyone reading.
I spent over 25 years of my life in Public Safety. First in the Airforce starting in Security Police then moving to Security Forces. After getting out I went to work as a Deputy Sheriff for awhile. Then got my self married and she asked me to do something a bit safer so I moved to Fire Rescue. I would spend the next 15 years there retiring as a Lt.
In both professions we train heavily to respond to this very scenario. We go thru very intense training to insure that we avoid this type of outcome but sometimes that person has made up their mind that they are tired of fighting their demons that day. And no amount of negotiating can convince that person that their is help available. And that better days might be ahead.
I myself had a family member commit suicide several years ago. My Stepbrother was also a veteran. And had his demons he was fighting. And about 5 years ago with no warning made his final decision. I will tell you that it leaves the whole family forever changed. It leaves you with eternal guilt and remorse. And not a day goes by that you don’t think about “Could I have Prevented It?”
I want to tell everyone involved in today’s situation that their is ZERO SHAME in reaching out for help in coping with this. From family to neighbors to the most hardened first responders on scene. To our dispatchers. And reporters. If you think this is affecting you please reach out immiediatley. There is nothing about needing help to cope that makes you any less of a person to deal with it.
To those struggling with mental health issues,
Please know you are not alone. And that you don’t have to fight your situation alone. Please make that call. And try to get help going. You matter and you are important. And people care.
I hope Flagler County is paying attention. We have so much need for Mental Health services in this county. And there is no reason not to have it.
To our fellow FL readers,
I apologize for rambling. As someone who has had their fair share of dealing with mental health crisis this is a subject near and dear to my heart.
I think your post was right on point. As a retired Social Worker who used to work on a Behavioral Services Unite, I appreciated it.
Thank you for you excellent comments on this subject.
McGevna Donna says
I just want to add no one wants to be at any scene when it’s tragic. I’ve live in different cities as we all have; we all agree we would be upset if we had a Leader that sat behind a desk! Let’s appreciate all those involved and give of themselves unselfishly. Thanks for reading and considering others opinions without disrespect. D
That was my sister.we lost my twin brother as well almost 10 years ago. It’s incredibly sad. Thank you for your kind words.
Julie is your sister ?
I cannot believe this has happened. I’m heartbroken
Jon K says
It is unfortunate but a part of life there are some very emotionally troubled people out there.
My sympathy to the family.
Praying for the family involved. Sad situation.
40 deputies on the scene, we need to defend this bloated organization for sure. Drain the swamp, vote for me. Only I can fix these types of problems.
LET’S DO IT!! says
Right there with you!! Tell us where, when and how to help.. and WE WILL BE THERE!!!!
The dude says
If only the father and the 16yo had been armed, this all could’ve been avoided.
Very sad outcome for this young woman and her family specially her children. Is always very wrong to keep guns in a home were reside mentally disturbed individuals.
Thank you to the men and women who showed great restraint and compassion for someone suffering a mental health crisis. You did all you could and more. God bless Julie Ann and God bless you all.
The mental health situation in Flagler has gotten out of hand. Why does the state keep consistently cutting funding for mental health services?? Why does DeSantis insist he cares about Floridians but then strips them of what little help is available in a world that’s getting crueler and lonelier? I regret voting for him.
What mental health services has he cut?
How heartbreaking for everyone concerned.
Staly should write a novel about this titled -HOW TO MISHANDLE A SITUATION WITH 40 DEPUTIES !!!!
Blame? Really? When you suffer from serious mental and internal pain and your demons surface…no one can reach you and it never ever stops inside your head.
You expect law enforcement to “reach her” when her husband cannot?
I would venture to say that more families than not have someone in their immediate or extended family who has mental health issues. I know I am one of them. My younger brother has had a history of mental health concerns dating back more than 40 years ever since he was a teacher and received serious head trauma from being assaulted by a teen student. Fortunately, he has never done anything violent nor has be been considered a danger to anyone other than himself when he was not taking his meds. But there are still concerns about his safety that the family has no control over because he has estranged himself from all of us for decades and we do not know anything about his living situation. The one thing that really concerns me about this incident in Palm Coast that I hope anyone who has a family member or friend with mental health issues will take into consideration is this… PLEASE do whatever is necessary to ensure there are no guns in the home that such an individual can get their hands on. So many families want to believe that someone with mental health issues will never do something like the woman did in this incident, but if there are unsecured firearms in a home with an unstable person living there, you are just adding an extra layer of danger and uncertainty if and when law enforcement or other emergency personnel has to respond to the home. For the sake of loved ones as well as innocent neighbors and emergency responders, there NEVER should be firearms around or accessible to someone who is already struggling with mental health issues.
Someone, please refresh my memory.
Ten or fifteen years ago a mentally ill, dark-complected man was shot in his garage
while hiding behind outdoor furniture with a machete.
He used to walk around with a bible and worked at Burger King.
No tear gas for him—deputies were in a hurry that day—they shot and killed him.
Why waste time, right?
There was also a lady with a history of mental illness from Palm Coast
who caught 15-20 slugs (as I recall) by SWAT and numerous deputies in her car
in Ormond Beach.
Now, this poor lady shoots herself. I am so sorry for her family.
Great work with the mentally ill!
But you live in Florida. And you enjoy it. And you also do the hundreds of white people who have been killed by police a disservice when you pretend that cops only target black people.
It isn’t yours truly who’s done a disservice to anyone.
You’re entitled to your opinions, but not your own facts—remember that.
You’re not a soothsayer, case in point:
– I don’t live in Florida anymore.
– I didn’t enjoy it.
Mind you: I was focusing on the treatment of mentally ill people and the lack of training
and the apathy shone by police and community towards these individuals.
Ignore the mental illness problem and maybe it’ll go away like preachers at your door
on a Saturday morning.
Add darkly pigmented skin and the danger to you is multiplied.
That, sweetheart, is a fact.
Thanks for your comment.
I’m sorry white people! :-)
Geezer (just call me “Whitey.”)
Troy Gordon was the mentally ill man shot by FCSO in his garage.
ACTUALLY, HE WAS MURDERED.
We love And miss you everyday Julie. I wish I had known you were suffering so I could have got you help.