Second man dies following shooting at Plant City business

Published March 13 2018
Updated March 13 2018

PLANT CITY — A second man wounded by gunfire at a Plant City business on Monday has died.

William Duncan, 44, died Monday night after being transported to the Lakeland Regional Hospital, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday.

Duncan is the second person to die from the violence that erupted about 4 p.m. at the office of Bliss Enterprises, which manufactures barns and garages, at 3940 Knights Griffin Road.

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Duncan and an unidentified man, whose condition was described as stable, confronted Richard Paul Bliss in his office about an ongoing dispute, deputies said. Bliss shot both men but was then fatally shot by an unidentified family member of the victims, according to the official account.

The argument broke out after a weeks-long dispute over the presence of one of the victims on the property, Hillsborough sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski said.

One of the wounded men was living and working on the property but had been asked to leave, Lusczynski said. The other man was his relative. The Sheriff’s Office said the relative is 45.

At some point, Bliss took out a gun and shot both men, deputies said. A family member who had been outside the office heard the shots then entered the office and shot Bliss, Lusczynski said.

Deputies from Hillsborough and Polk counties arrived and found Bliss dead. Detectives were still investigating Tuesday and it was not known if the person who shot Bliss will face criminal charges.

Bliss is listed in state records as the registered agent of Bliss Enterprises LLC. According to the company’s Facebook page, the family-owned business was founded in 1982. An aerial photo of the property on Bliss’ Facebook page shows more than a dozen buildings of various types and sizes on the sprawling five-acre property.

Both of the men killed had criminal records in Florida.

Bliss was convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm in 2003 and served a short stint in state prison. He has other convictions for possession of methamphetamine and, most recently, battery in 2016, records.

Duncan had been arrested more than a dozen times with convictions for driving under the influence, disorderly conduct and resisting a law enforcement officer, state records show.

Richard C. Bliss Sr., the younger Bliss’s father and the listed owner of property, declined to comment Tuesday.

William Belcher, a friend of the younger Bliss for about 14 years, said he wasn’t completely surprised to hear about the shooting.

Bliss struggled with paranoia and had a quick temper, two traits aggravated by his use of methamphetamine, Belcher said.

"That was kind of his demon there," said Belcher, 36, of Plant City. "He was responsible for that business being as successful as it was is, but drugs took him down a bad path."

Belcher described his friend as "a very hot-headed guy."

"He was one to go guns blazing and ask questions later," Belcher said.

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.