SPRING HILL — The naked woman who was shot and killed by two off-duty law enforcement officers at a gathering Saturday confronted them with a gun, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said Monday.
Hernando County sheriff's Detective Rocky Howard, 31, and Tampa police Officer William Mechler, 26, were attending a gathering when 42-year-old Inga Marie Swanson approached, uninvited and acting irrationally, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Swanson left the gathering and returned later with the gun.
"The law enforcement officers reacted to the threat by discharging their firearms," according to the Sheriff's Office.
Authorities haven't released many details about the shooting and until Monday had said only that the woman had a "weapon" and not specifically a gun.
What is clear: Both Howard and Mechler have blemish-free evaluations and have won high praise from their supervisors throughout their tenures.
Neither Howard nor Mechler had been involved in a shooting incident until Saturday. Their personnel files are discipline-free.
Howard has worked for the Hernando Sheriff's Office for six years and worked his way up to his current position as a property crimes detective.
In his most recent review in June, his supervisor gave him high marks, lauding his hard work and ability to close cases.
Howard was one of the top performers in his district in terms of making arrests and closing cases, according to his supervisor, Sgt. Douglas Campbell.
Howard aims to become a detective with the major case unit. Campbell ended his evaluation by highly recommending that the department consider Howard for any available openings.
Mechler, who became a Tampa police officer earlier this month, was previously an officer with the Dade City Police Department for more than four years.
He received positive evaluations and was encouraged to pursue a leadership position
"Officer Mechler's ability to enter stressful situations and demonstrate a calm, pleasant and respectful attitude toward those he has contact with is an asset to this agency and should be an example to other officers," Sgt. Tim Harrelson wrote in 2011.
Mechler was involved in three Taser incidents during his four years in Dade City and was found to have been justified in using force in all of them.
"He's a great cop and a really strong decisionmaker," said Dade City police Chief Ray Velboom.
His file includes several complimentary notes from residents for his courtesy and one from Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco commending him and other officers for their service during Tropical Storm Debby in June.
Howard and Mechler are acquaintances, said Lt. Cinda Moore, a Hernando Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.
The incident took place about 1:20 p.m. at 9070 Orchard Way, less than half a mile from where Swanson was living.
Moore said the property is owned by Howard's mother-in-law and father-in-law, and records show Howard lives nearby.
The Sheriff's Office still hasn't disclosed details of the gathering and wouldn't say Monday whether alcohol was served. It was not clear whether the shots were fired by service weapons or the men's personal guns.
Officers are urged to be armed even when they are off-duty, Moore said.
Howard and Mechler have been placed on administrative leave from their agencies while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates.
Meanwhile, friends of Swanson's remained perplexed by the incident.
"She's a good girl. She was full of life. Very Christian. Very into her Bible. Very modest," said longtime friend Amy Hull, 36, of Spring Hill. "Was it weird that she was outside naked? Absolutely. Marie was not one to be naked anywhere.
"She walked around with turtlenecks and pants all the time. Very, very, very modest. She wouldn't get out of a shower and run through her house in a towel. Nothing like that."
Times staff writer Lisa Buie contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.