A Hillsborough County inmate faces two additional felony charges after he lunged for a deputy’s gun while waiting for a court hearing to start, authorities said.
Robert Lewis Bridges III, 24, was wearing leg shackles, handcuffs and a wait chain as he waited for his case to be called inside Circuit Judge Martha Cook’s courtroom Tuesday morning, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. There were about 25 people in the courtroom, sheriff’s office spokesman Det. Larry McKinnon said.
“And the deputy, the sergeant, said that she could notice that the guy was really focusing in on her gun belt, and looking her over, which kind of gave her some red flags,” McKinnon said of Master Sgt. Tracey Wallace.
She started to keep a close eye on Bridges – and when she walked by he lunged at her, McKinnon said.
Their struggle lasted just a moment, video shows.
Bridges grabbed her holstered gun with both hands, but Wallace was able to keep him from taking the gun, the sheriff’s office said. Two other deputies immediately aided Wallace in restraining Bridges, who was taken out of the courtroom. No one was injured.
McKinnon said that Wallace was wearing a very tight retention holster, and she had been intensively trained on how to retain her .40-caliber gun during any attempts to take it from her.
“Her quick thinking and defensive actions, along with the type of equipment that she had on her belt, and of course with the other deputies restraining, we feel prevented a really tragic incident in that courtroom,” McKinnon said.
And with 18 years of experience, Wallace noticed that the guy was focusing on her, McKinnon said.
“So when he pounced, she was already predisposed to react because she saw that he was acting strangely,” he said.
Bridges was taken to a holding cell and was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and depriving an officer of means of protection, the sheriff’s office said. It wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney.
Bridges had been arrested and brought to jail on Feb. 11 on charges of burglary of an occupied dwelling, third-degree grand theft, obstructing or opposing an officer and tampering with electronic monitoring equipment, McKinnon said.
Bridges, who has been in jail since then, was in court Tuesday for a status hearing for those four charges, which are also felonies, and is being held on no bond on them, McKinnon said.
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