Friday, November 24, 2017
Public safety

Deputy shoots, kills armed and suicidal man in Clair-Mel

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CLAIR-MEL — An armed man who was threatening suicide early Wednesday was shot and killed by a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy outside his home, authorities said.

George L. Garrett, 66, was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he later died. No law enforcement officers were hurt.

The shooting came as a shock to Garrett's family, some of whom were visiting from out of town this week.

"I didn't even know my son had a gun," said his mother, Carmen Garrett, 88. Her voice cracked as she spoke and tears welled in her eyes. "It's so sudden. We're all grieving."

According to the Sheriff's Office, a call came in about 3:20 a.m. from one of the Garrett family members staying with him in the two-bedroom house at 1003 Turner Drive. The caller said he was armed and threatening to kill himself.

When deputies arrived, Garret walked out holding a semiautomatic handgun, officials said. They ordered him to drop the weapon, but Garrett kept on walking. Cpl. Duane Benton, 44, shot the man out of fear for his own life, officials said.

Benton fired two rounds from his .40-caliber service weapon, a sheriff's spokesman said, striking Garrett once in the upper body.

Detectives found a loaded, .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun on the driveway where Garrett was shot, the Sheriff's Office said.

Benton, a 16-year veteran, is assigned to District 2 patrol. This is not the first time he has shot a suicidal suspect.

In 2002, Benton shot and killed Margaret Marko, 49, at her home in the 11000 block of Shady Lane in Riverview after she threatened suicide and fired several shots at deputies.

She refused to put down her gun and told deputies she wanted them to shoot her. Benton fired one round into Marko's chest. She died at the scene. It was determined to be justifiable use of deadly force.

Benton was put on paid administrative leave Wednesday, as is routine, while officials conduct an investigation into the shooting.

For Carmen Garrett, who lives just blocks away from her son, the issue is simple: "The police are so quick — so quick to shoot."

She said her son's children and grandchildren were visiting from out of state Wednesday, which she called a blessing and a curse.

"They say God works in mysterious ways," she said. "I don't know why it had to happen, but thank God my children are here and we're together. I couldn't have done this alone."

She had no idea why her son would act out in the way deputies say he did, especially with his family around.

Garrett, who owned the house where the shooting happened, has no criminal record in Florida, records show. He was the subject of a tax lien in 1997, but it was released three years later. It was not known if he suffered from any medical conditions.

An investigation is ongoing.

News researcher Carolyn Edds and staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report. Marissa Lang can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386 or on Twitter @Marissa_Jae.

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