The Glock handgun was found in the front seat of the car driven by suspect Jullian Vaughn Thomas after deputies returned fire and secured him. MCSO/Contributed

An armed robbery that started Saturday afternoon in Key West ended a short time later on Big Coppitt Key near MIle Marker 10, when the armed suspect pulled over and fired a shot at surrounding deputies, who fired back and injured the suspect.

Four deputies, two from Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and two from Florida Highway Patrol, returned fire and hit the armed robbery suspect, later identified as Jullian Vaughn Thomas, 24, of Tennessee, who had fled from Key West Police, MCSO and FHP officers after the armed robbery, Sheriff Rick Ramsay told Keys Weekly at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 18 while driving home from the scene.

The sheriff’s office had received a BOLO (be on the lookout) notice for the suspect and his car from Key West Police Department, the sheriff said.

“The suspect had just committed an armed robbery on the streets of Key West, where he held a loaded Glock a foot from the victim’s head while stealing his cellphone,” Sheriff Ramsay said. “Key West Police were able to give us a good description of the car — a gray sedan with Louisiana tags — and the license plate number. So we immediately got set up to look for him, because, as we all know, there’s only one road out of here.”

Tire spikes were used to slow down the suspect’s vehicle, and FHP officers ultimately tapped the back of the gray sedan with their own patrol car “to make it spin out and stop,” Ramsay said.

The grainy photo shows the armed robbery in Key West that touched off a police pursuit and shooting Saturday afternoon at Mile Marker 10. KEY WEST POLICE/Contributed

“As officers got out of their cars, they heard a single shot ring out from the suspect’s car in the direction of the officers,” Ramsay said. “Four officers — two from MCSO and two from FHP — returned fire. The suspect was struck several times, and was injured, but not fatally.

“He was hit in the shoulder and in the chest area, but the chest shot went straight through without hitting any vital organs,” Ramsay said. “Deputies immediately secured the suspect, began rendering first aid and called the Trauma Star helicopter, which airlifted him to Miami.”

When the suspect was secured, investigators found a loaded Glock handgun on the front passenger seat. Thomas had been the only person in the car and the only suspect in the armed robbery, which was caught on surveillance video.

“It was chaotic, scary and proof that no matter how safe the Keys are, there’s always something scary like this that can happen anywhere,” Ramsay said. “We appreciate the sacrifices our officers make every day. We’re thankful no deputies were injured or killed and that the suspect will survive to be held accountable and face these charges.”

Ramsay said the Key West Police have pending charges for the armed robbery, and additional attempted murder charges could follow for the attempted police shooting.

Ramsay already contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for an independent review of the officer-involved shooting.

“I want a clear, fresh set of eyes on this so there are no questions,” he told Keys Weekly. “I want people to hear of these things from me first. Our men and women did an amazing job and  I hope our citizens can appreciate the sacrifices they make every day.”

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