DAY 309 of Sheriff Mike Chitwood's tenure in the elected office was an eye-opener to the sworn personnel in the VCSO for it was on this date - Nov. 6, 2017 - that the acid-tongued "Microphone Mike" did not mouth an acknowledgment of the 35th anniversary of the slaying of Deputy Stephen Saboda.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The 35th anniversary of VCSO Deputy Stephen Saboda's life being snuffed out by a sniper's bullet came and went without one word from Sheriff Mike Chitwood who had earned the moniker "Microphone Mike" for his constant craving to put on a show in front of the TV news camera crews during his decade run as Daytona's police chief and even more pronounced over the first 11 months of his four-year term as the elected sheriff.
The only acknowledgment from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office was a Facebook posting by Chitwood's PIOs with a one-line summary followed by comments rehashed from a 10-anniversary reflection from a retired sergeant.
PIO Statement: On this date in 1982, 35-year-old Volusia County Sheriff's Deputy Stephen Saboda was shot and killed during a standoff and shootout in the Country Club Estates area of DeLand. Today, on the 35th anniversary of his death, we owe it to Deputy Saboda’s memory to honor the way he lived his life and served his community.
Chitwood's snubbing of the sacred anniversary was seen by longstanding deputies and newbies alike as a sign of disrespect to Saboda's family. The handling of this sacred milestone did not go over well with many of the rank-and-file deputies, several of whom told Headline Surfer on condition of anonymity that Chitwood had made clear theirtheir names not who told Headline Surfer
Remarks made by Sgt. James Ellinor on the 10th anniversary of Saboda's death:
“November the 6th, 1982 was by far the worst day of my life. Shortly after I came on duty that day, myself and (at that time) Corporal Ernie Harris were called to a domestic disturbance on Oak Park Drive in DeLand. Only moments after our arrival, I watched Ernie Harris get shot in the chest and fall to the ground. The suspect continued to shoot and I was forced to discharge my firearm in attempts to protect Ernie from further harm.
I was in shock and, at the time, angry that someone had shot my partner.
The SWAT Team was called in to handle the situation, so I "changed hats" and we went to work. The team deployed and Steve Saboda was called to shoot tear gas into the suspect's residence. Tear gas was deployed into the upstairs front portion of the residence. Then Steve and I went into the backyard so he could deploy gas into the lower rear level of the house.
Steve laid down behind a small stand of trees and I was five feet behind him covering the rear of the residence. Steve fired a single shot of tear gas when the night exploded into gunfire. At first, I was unable to locate the source of the gunfire. It was not coming from the house. Then I noticed a muzzle flash and my worst fear was confirmed. The suspect was not inside the house, but behind us, and only 20-25 feet away. I turned and returned fire in the direction of the suspect. He momentarily stopped firing. Next I heard Steve yell out, "I've been shot!" My heart sank because I knew I was isolated from help. I attempted to crawl toward Steve but the suspect again fired in our direction, pinning me down helpless for 15 minutes. I laid there and was forced to listen to my partner and good friend die. Those 15 minutes lying there thinking that I was to be the next one killed seemed like an eternity.
I learned that night how precious and fragile life really is.
I'll never forget the muzzle flashes, and the great percussion I felt from the suspect's assault rifle. I, as well as other SWAT Team members, lived with nightmares of that fateful night for months and even years.
Steve was someone very special to me, a role model if you will. Steve was impressively dedicated to his wife and family. He spoke of them often, bragging about his children's smallest accomplishments and how happy he was as a family man.
Steve was also a very dedicated law enforcement officer. Steve represented the Volusia County Sheriff's Department as one of the first public relations officers. He visited schools, civic organizations, government agencies and worked with the news media. Everyone loved Steve and his million-dollar smile, his sparkling personality and wit.
Steve was so dedicated to the Sheriff's Department that he joined the SWAT Team at a time when training was done on off-duty time only, with no compensation, and at a time when team members purchased most of their equipment with their own money.
All we really had back then was each other. At the time, with almost no equipment, but with a strong belief and commitment to the SWAT Team concept, we embarked to handle serious, hostile situations. We learned together in training and on actual calls. We became a highly respected SWAT Team by the community and other law enforcement agencies.
The one positive result of that tragic incident is that the SRT Team now utilizes the latest in technical and protective equipment.
I think of Steve often, and the good times we shared always bring a smile to my face. I miss him a lot.
I am proud to have known and served with Steve and would like to thank Steve for touching my life.
I also want to thank Steve for watching out for us over the last 10 years. For example, the recent Oak Hill call could have just as easily ended up in one or more deputies being injured or killed. We were lucky. We were again lucky when Deputy Philbrick could fight off his violent attacker in Deltona.
I urge everyone here to search deep into your soul remembering the most important the most important rule to any law enforcement officer: To survive, no matter what it takes, so you may return to your family at the end of your shift.
It's been 10 years, but Steve's legacy lives on. Steve Saboda will live forever in our hearts.
God bless you, Steve, your family, and everyone here today. Bless all law enforcement officers that make this world a better place to live for others."