Intruder Shot by Florida Homeowner Had Just Been Released on Bail

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Police in Port Orange, Florida say a 46-year-old man who was shot and killed by an armed homeowner as he was trying to climb through a bedroom window had been arrested and charged with burglary just the day before, but was released on bail after spending just a few hours behind bars.


Justin Alvaro Dematos didn’t have any criminal history before his arrest just after midnight on November 15, when police took him into custody after he tried to gain entry to a home using the buttons on an electronic keypad near the front door. Dematos’s girlfriend, however, says he had recently started displaying erratic and disturbing behavior, which included showing up at strangers’ homes and trying to make his way inside.

Police said that on Nov. 16, Dematos approached a home in the 5900 block of Pelham Drive at approximately 12:05 a.m., and tried to break in.

Barking dogs at the home woke up the residents, who heard Dematos ringing their doorbell, police said.

The homeowner, while inside, verbally confronted Dematos who walked away. He then went to the side of the home and reportedly removed the screen to a bedroom window that had been left slightly open, said Port Orange police detective Michael Wallace.

The homeowner verbally confronted Dematos again, asking him what he was doing on his property but Dematos did not respond Wallace said.

Police said Dematos then attempted to enter the home through the open bedroom window and was shot one time by the homeowner, police said.

Dematos died at the scene.

According to Maria Alvaro, who was Dematos’s fiancee, the man’s mother was coming down from Boston in order to get her son psychiatric treatment before he was shot, but that neither she nor Alvaro could “get him help in time.”


Maria Alvaro said Dematos would become disoriented and talk to himself and said he heard voices. When she bailed him out of jail on Nov. 15, he told her he had gone out for a walk, and lost his sense of direction and ended up at strangers’ homes.

Maria Alvaro said that on one occasion they were out on a drive when Dematos started asking her who was with her in the car because he was hearing someone else talking to her.

“What I want is for this not to happen to other people’s loved ones and to clarify what happened with Justin (Dematos),” Maria Alvaro said.

The additional details are enlightening, but none of them change the circumstances that led to his shooting. If Dematos had simply walked away from the home after being confronted by the resident, he’d likely still be alive today. But when he instead tried to gain entry into the home after removing the screen attached to the window, the homeowner had every reason to believe that Dematos intended to do him harm.

Alvaro says that neither she nor Dematos’s mother was able to get him the mental help they believed he needed, but it’s unclear whether either of them ever spoke to police about their concerns, including when Alvaro bonded him out of jail on the burglary charges. Under Florida’s Mental Health Act, also known as the Baker Act, law enforcement can request a 72-hour mental health hold for individuals “showing signs of mental illness, a failure to understand why an evaluation may be needed, and/or posing a threat to themselves or others.”


Law enforcement had their own interaction with Dematos, of course, and could have initiated a mental health hold if they believed that he met the qualifications. According to police, they quizzed him about whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they arrested him for burglary, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate that they queried him or his fiancee about his mental health.

It sounds like there were several opportunities to get Dematos in front of a mental health care worker for an evaluation, as well as at least some concern on the part of those who knew Dematos best that his mental state was declining. The Baker Act is used more than 100,000 times a year in Florida, so why wasn’t it used here? Maybe an evaluation would have determined that he posed no threat to himself or others, but at the very least that 72-hour hold would have prevented him from taking another midnight stroll and trying to gain access to strangers’ homes for three days… more than enough time to change the course of events that led to his death.



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