BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - A Brevard County man accused of trying to kill three Brevard County deputies said he didn't know they were law enforcement officers when they showed up at his home to arrest his niece three years ago.
John Derossett was in court Monday for an immunity from prosecution hearing, which is expected to last several days.
Derossett's attorneys said the bottom line is that on the night of Aug. 20, 2015, their client had no idea that the people at his house were members of law enforcement.
Officials said three undercover deputies were at his Port Saint John home trying to arrest his niece, Mary Ellis, during a prostitution sting, when Derossett heard her screaming and watched her being dragged. Officials said he then fired a shot in the air.
Derossett, 68, was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Court records show deputies then fired at him and he returned fire.
Deputy Casey Smith was critically injured.
“The circumstances are sad all around. Two men were shot, and Agent Smith nearly lost his life, and Mr. Derossett was shot twice and really had no idea why,” defense attorney Michael Panella said.
Panella said he is not convinced that his client shot Smith.
The court also heard testimony that Derossett took in his niece because she had nowhere else to go.
Mary Ellis, Derossett's niece, testified Monday afternoon that her uncle was unaware of her criminal activity.
"I told people I lived with my uncle, and he didn't know," she said.
Prosecutors said Derossett knew about Ellis' problem with prescription drugs and was aware of her criminal activity, so he shouldn't be entitled to immunity in the case.
As court was adjourned Monday, Ellis was arrested on a 2015 violation of probation charge.
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