The State Attorney’s Office concluded Clay County Sheriff’s deputies were justified in shooting and killing a man in April 2022.
According to the SAO’s report, the incident started with a 911 call of an attempted suicide in Orange Park. The caller told police Daniel Palato, 39, shot a gun in his home.
Before Orange Park police got there, Palato took off and threatened “suicide by cop.”
A family member told police Palato was yelling, saying “the police won’t get him alive.”
“There’s a limited amount of actions that they can take,” Former JSO officer James Brown said. “Even trying to take him into custody. There’s limited responses to that, especially if at the time of contact, they’re met with a firearm.”
When police got there, Palato came back, and they ordered him to show his hands. He refused and said, “you know I have an AR-15 right? This is not going to end the way you think it is,” then ran away.
That’s when Orange Park police requested additional assistance from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the report, Clay County officers were told that Palato fled the scene armed with an AR-15 style rifle and 9 mm pistol.
Deputies tried a traffic stop but they said Palato was speeding and driving erratically.
Palato ultimately stopped on Constitution Drive.
Deputies got out and saw him wearing a tactical vest pointing a gun at them before driving off again.
Those deputies radioed that Palato had a gun and pointed it. They keep chasing him and Palato continues to drive erratically.
“Most responding officers are worried about how can they get this individual in the custody without harming the public,” Brown said. “And that’s the danger of it all… that’s the danger of it all.”
Deputies performed a PIT maneuver to get him to stop. Then, they surround his car.
Palato refuses deputies’ commands to show his hands, then reaches over into the passenger side of the car.
According to the report, deputies believed he was reaching for a gun, then Palato “popped up making a motion as if he was taking aim at me with a potential firearm” so the deputy shot and killed him.
The SAO did report no guns were in the car, but there were two gun magazines and a knife.
“The fact that neither the AR-15 nor the 9 mm were recovered does not change our analysis,” the SAO wrote in the report.
Brown agrees the deputies’ actions are justified.
“In those instances, still, you have to go back to the previous information. There was a weapon, he had fired a weapon. So regardless of whether a weapon was not found, they had every reason to believe that any sudden action could have easily been that weapon,” Brown said.
When asked if there was anything these deputies could have done to preserve life in this moment, Brown said “no.”
News4JAX called and emailed the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to comment on the SAO’s finding. We’re still waiting to hear back.
We also reached out to Palato’s father, who we spoke with in March, as well as the family attorney, but they did not respond.