NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded this week that the fatal November shooting of a man with a butcher knife who lunged at two police officers was a justifiable killing.
Cpl. Matt Berry shot Mark Brooks Lee, 42, twice in the torso on Nov. 14. Witnesses said Berry repeatedly asked Lee to drop the knife, but he refused.
Berry, a veteran officer, was placed on paid administrative leave. He returned to work in December after the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office concluded that Lee's killing was justified, said Capt. Jeffrey Harrington of the New Port Richey Police Department.
The department also launched an internal investigation that will be completed soon, Harrington said.
"Once we have all the documents from FDLE and the state attorney together, the police chief will make his finding," Harrington said.
According to the FDLE report, here's what happened:
New Port Richey officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a domestic disturbance at 6130 Corson Ave., where they found Lee and his fiancee, Randi Krueger, arguing in the courtyard.
Lee was carrying a large knife. Berry and the other officer drew their weapons and demanded Lee drop it.
Lee yelled obscenities at the officers. One officer said Lee "appeared to be fixated on Cpl. Berry and advanced towards him swiftly from approximately 40 feet away."
Berry moved away as Lee approached, then shot him twice.
Witnesses said before authorities arrived, the couple was arguing about Lee being late to pick up Krueger from the hospital after surgery that day, and his refusal to take her to a pharmacy to get her medications.
A friend took Krueger to the pharmacy instead. When they returned, the argument continued, and witnesses say Lee hit Krueger in the face.
Lee got into his car and left. The friend called police. When Lee returned a few minutes later, he went into the apartment and got the knife, the report said.
Lee again struck Krueger in the face while holding the knife, the report said.
During the argument, Lee held the knife to his throat, saying he wanted to kill himself.
According to the report, he told Krueger, "I'd rather be dead than go to jail."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.