Crime

Manatee deputies end standoff peacefully at Palmetto RV park with gas assault

Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube talks about standoff with suspect

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube speaks on Thursday's standoff with suspect James Diotte at Fisherman's Cove Resort in Palmetto.
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Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube speaks on Thursday's standoff with suspect James Diotte at Fisherman's Cove Resort in Palmetto.

MANATEE -- A man was taken into custody about 3 p.m. Thursday after a four-hour standoff with Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies.

James Diotte, 45, was taken into custody when he came out of a mobile home at Fisherman's Cove Resort in Palmetto. Surrounded by deputies, the shirtless Diotte sat in front of a Citation RV, a blanket draped around his waist. He was then handcuffed and led into a vehicle nearby.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said Diotte is being charged with aggravated assault with a firearm.

According to sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow, deputies were called to Fisherman's Cove, 100 Palm View Road, about a domestic disturbance sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. During the disturbance, Diotte threatened to shoot a woman, the sheriff's office said.

The woman escaped the home unharmed, Bristow

said.

Diotte remained inside, at times threatening to shoot himself.

Neighbors said Diotte is a military veteran and they've heard he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He's a really nice guy," said William Steele, who has lived in the mobile home park since September. "He's just been troubled."

Mobile homes surrounding the area were evacuated, and a crowd stood just outside Fisherman's Cove Resort, waiting to be allowed back to their homes.

Steele said he hasn't heard about anything like this happening in the area before.

"This is a nice, quiet neighborhood," he said. "It's a close-knit community. We do dinners and events together every week. We had a Valentine's Day dinner the other day. We don't have things like this."

According to Steube, the sheriff's office fired two rounds of gas into the home at 2:54 after not hearing from Diotte since 1:15 p.m.

"Shortly after that, he came out the front door," Steube said. "He would not show us his hands. He was challenged verbally and he was then hit with a nonlethal round and he was knocked to the ground, at which point we were able to secure him."

A North River Fire District truck arrived later to air out the mobile home.

Tom Cockcroft, a resort resident, sat in a lawn chair nearby with his wife, Roberta Cockcroft, also 76.

"I know him. I knew it was going to happen someday," the 76-year-old said of Diotte. "He's just a short fuse."

Cockcroft said he's known Diotte for a little more than two years and considers him a friend.

"He never seemed to be very stable," Cockcroft said. "Besides that, he could be a nice guy."

The SWAT team arrived about noon and repeatedly sent a message to Diotte over the loudspeaker: "You need to come out of the trailer with your hands up and no weapons. We want to end this peacefully."

Bristow said they didn't believe anyone else was inside the home with the suspect.

In those situations, SWAT protocols generally avoid a confrontation, however, preferring to wait until the suspect comes out on his own.

During the standoff, nearby Palm View Elementary School, 6025 Bayshore Road, was on security lockdown, according to Manatee County School District officials.

Joann Jonah, 60, stood with her neighbors near the resort. Their faces were partly shaded by the tree above them.

"There's certainly a sense of helplessness here," she said looking at the scene from across the narrow street. "We've got a man in extensive pain, and in a very dark hole right now, and all we're doing at this point is praying that he comes out of this situation alive."

Jonah, who has lived at Fisherman's Cove for about six months, said she's met Diotte before.

"We wish we could just go in and take him and say 'It's going to be OK,'" she said. "It's a really hard thing to go through."

Diotte was held in Manatee County jail on $50,000 bond.

Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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