Officials: 4 Dead, 2 Deputies Injured in Florida Shootouts
Saturday , June 07, 2008
Four people were killed and two sheriff's deputies were injured in two separate, but related shootings on Saturday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.
Authorities said the scene unfolded after they received reports at 9:25 a.m. that there was gunfire inside a residence. Deputies responded and a suspect vehicle was seen leaving the house. They followed the red pick-up truck and caught up to the suspect about a mile-and-a-half from the house. He fired shots from his vehicle and hit two deputies. He then approached one of the wounded deputies and got into a physical fight with him. Meanwhile, a third deputy came up and shot and killed the suspect.
Authorities said Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, 44, was renting the house. She was found dead alongside Chris Artigas, 45, who was a captain and 23-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. Artigas was married with two sons and a daughter.
"We're all saddened in Hillsborough County Fire Rescue by this loss," said Fire Rescue Chief Bill Nesmith. "He was a well respected, well rounded individual who did an excellent job for us for 23 years."
Regina Ann Coffaro, 44, died at the hospital, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said.
The suspect, who has not yet been named, had lived on-and-off at the house and had a relationship with at least one of the female victims, authorities said.
Both deputies were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and underwent surgeries.
Deputy Ray Wilson, 55, was shot in the arm and was in fair condition after being operated on. The other deputy, Art Lence, 53, was hit in the lower torso and the bullet exited through his back, Callaway said. He was in critical condition.
Lence has been employed by the sheriff's office since 1991 and Wilson since 1981.
Callaway said authorities have "no idea" about the motive for the shootings.
"That's what we are trying to figure out," he said.
The intersection where the shootout with the deputies occurred was just outside a middle class family neighborhood, located in the unincorporated suburbs north of the city limits of Tampa.
Meanwhile, hours after the shootout, the bullet-riddle red Ford pick-up truck was still parked in the intersection surrounded by markers that the sheriff's office put down to identify bullet casings.
Streets around the area were closed off by authorities, causing midday traffic jams in the busy neighborhood.
"This is a very good neighborhood, very quiet, very peaceful," said neighbor Connie Morris, who heard the gunshots while walking with her grandchildren Saturday morning. "This is the biggest thing that's ever happened here."
Marvin Kinsler said he knew the suspect and described him as a nice, outgoing person.
"He was one of those people who would say, 'if you need something just ask,"' Kinsler said. "I still can't imagine him doing that."
Another neighbor, John Mullins, was quoted by The Tampa Tribune as saying that he was at the rear door of his house when he heard shooting from across a privacy fence. His wife was inside fixing breakfast.
Moments later, Vernetta Mullins saw the man leave through in his red pickup truck, she said.
"After the shooting, he came out with a gun in his hand with a white towel draped over it," she told the newspaper.
She then called 911, and authorities found him about a half-mile away, where the shootout with deputies broke out.