Man, 23, Fatally Shot by SWAT Had Served in Afghanistan

Troubled Veteran Dies in Dade City Standoff

by Alex Orlando and Danny Valentine

Tampa Bay Times, April 3, 2012

DADE CITY — On a street where everybody seemed to know each other, Justin Johnathan Plaza stood out as a stranger.

“He wasn’t the kind that’s friendly,” said Earleane Morgan, 69.
Neighbors driving by Plaza’s house at 14022 Morgan St. described a regular scene: Plaza and two women squatting between potted dieffenbachia, their heads bowed, eyes closed.

They appeared to be praying, said Beverly Hives, another neighbor.
Neighbors said window shades were always drawn at the small, pale yellow concrete block house. Plaza, 23, occasionally came out to walk a dog but didn’t have much to say.

On March 25, a week ago Sunday, Plaza walked to the end of his dirt driveway and emptied a .45-caliber handgun into a tree. Police came and took him into custody under the Baker Act. Officers said he was argumentative, combative and paranoid, saying people were out to get him, Dade City police Capt. David Duff said.

Later that day, Morgan said, a woman who said her name was Sharon and that she was Plaza’s mother came across the street to apologize.

The neighborhood was quiet for a week. Then at 11 p.m. Sunday, somebody called 911 and said Plaza was back in the house and holding a handgun on a relative.

When police arrived, a woman ran from the house, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

Plaza had just put a gun to her head and said, “We need to pray.”

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