West Melbourne, FL – A Brevard County deputy was shot and a two-month-old infant was put in the line of fire by a career criminal with at least 24 prior felony arrests during a traffic stop on Monday, according to investigators.
He also had warrants out for his arrest.
The incident occurred just west of the Interstate 95 overpass on U.S. 192 at approximately 1 p.m. on Aug. 30, after a Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputy stopped a vehicle with three adult occupants inside, Sheriff Ivey said.
Wilder and the two-month-old baby were in the back seat at the time.
After a second deputy arrived at the scene, Wilder was instructed to exit the vehicle, Sheriff Ivey told Florida Today.
As he got out of the car, the suspect used a short-barreled rifle to open fire on the nearest deputy, the sheriff said.
One deputy was struck in the lower leg during the attack.
The deputies returned fire as Wilder tried to evade capture, Florida Today reported.
“The suspect was the initial aggressor in this case, as he concealed his weapon until he exited the vehicle and immediately began firing on our deputies in an attempt to take their lives and avoid arrest, as he was wanted on several warrants,” Sheriff Ivey explained.
The sheriff said Wilder put the baby “directly in the middle of a shootout,” Florida Today reported.
“As the suspect continued to violently engage our deputies, he concealed himself multiple times behind the cars and eventually ran up behind one of our deputies — using the butt of the rifle to strike him multiple times in the head, causing significant lacerations and tissue damage,” the sheriff noted.
The attack ended when the second deputy shot Wilder multiple times, Florida Today reported.
Wilder was pronounced dead at the scene.
The wounded deputy was rushed to a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, according to Sheriff Ivey.
The baby was not injured during the incident, nor was the other deputy.
Sheriff Ivey said dashcam footage of the attack will be released, Florida Today reported.
The deputies involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, as per protocol.
Sheriff Ivey refused to speak Wilder’s name during the video briefing.
“He doesn’t deserve 10 minutes of fame,” the sheriff said. “He deserves exactly what he got. And now he can’t ever harm anyone else.”
Sheriff Ivey described Wilder as an “extremely violent thug who ambushed and attempted to kill” two deputies.
He said the suspect was “a perfect example of what is wrong with our criminal justice system,” Florida Today reported.
He noted Wilder had been arrested on at least 23 felonies and 17 misdemeanors in the past for offenses including attempted first-degree murder, resisting with violence, battery on a law enforcement officer, robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault with a weapon, and narcotics trafficking.
“This career criminal was actually out on bond and on our streets, where he could attempt to kill our deputies and put others’ lives at risk,” Sheriff Ivey railed. “He should have been locked up safely behind bars a long time ago, where he couldn’t victimize another citizen or innocent bystander.”
According to Brevard County court records, Wilder actually had 21 misdemeanor arrests and 24 felony arrests dating back to 2002, Florida Today reported.
Six charges were dismissed, and another 17 – including attempted first-degree murder, battery on a law enforcement officer, and aggravated assault with a weapon – were dropped.
He was convicted of 12 charges in Brevard County alone, to include failing to register as a career offender, possession of a firearm by a felon, and cannabis possession.
Wilder also had additional cases pending at the time of the ambush attack.
“Why is a thug with this kind of criminal history even given a bond where he can be out on our streets to harm someone else?” Sheriff Ivey asked in the video briefing. “I promise you that when we release the dash camera footage from this deputy-involved shooting, you’re going to be outraged that this disgusting and vile individual was out on our streets, and you’re also going to be extremely proud of your Brevard County sheriff’s deputies for how they responded to this extremely violent encounter.”
Were it not for their heroic and swift actions, the situation could have ended “with us attending the funerals of two deputies” while a “useless thug” remained on the loose “to kill someone else,” Sheriff Ivey said.
“I could not be more proud of our deputies,” he reiterated. “As I’ve said several times before, if you point a gun at one of my deputies, you just guaranteed yourself a trip to one of three locations: the hospital, the morgue, or if you’re really lucky, the hospital and jail.”
Sheriff Ivey said he is surrounded by an “amazing team” at the BCSO, and commended them for going out every day to protect the citizens and the community they serve.