For first time, deputy's daughter feared for dad

Katie Wilson, daughter of one of the deputies who was shot last weekend, said her dad is recovering well.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Katie Wilson, daughter of one of the deputies who was shot last weekend, said her dad is recovering well.

TAMPA — Until last Saturday morning, Katie Wilson believed nothing could ever happen to her dad.

Since even before she was born 20 years ago, Katie's father has been a law enforcement officer. He'd pick her up at school in his cruiser and tell her to climb in the back seat, so as not to disturb the mounds of paperwork in front.

Despite the badge, Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Ray Wilson has always been dad. Strong, tall, funny dad.

Then Katie Wilson's phone rang.

"Your father's been shot," her mother told her.

"Wait a second," Katie thought, "my dad?"

Jorge Orlando Bello Garcia, 54, had opened fire on five people that morning. Bullets flew into his estranged wife, two of her friends and two deputies who tried to stop him.

Ray Wilson was shot in the arm. Unlike three others, he was alive.

Katie hung up, crying and scared. She didn't know the details.

She brushed her teeth, got dressed and waited for a neighbor to drive her to St. Joseph's Hospital. While she waited, Katie decided she needed to stop crying.

"Something in my gut knew he was going to be okay," Katie said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times on Friday.

She grabbed a few tissues, just in case, and got in her neighbor's car.

"Peachy Pie!" Ray Wilson, 56, cried out when he saw his daughter at his emergency room bedside. It was a variation on the nickname he'd given her at birth.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," he told her. "Don't worry!"

Katie, a junior music education major at Florida Gulf Coast University, isn't exactly sure what to make of it all. A bullet pierced her father's arm below his elbow. He was released from the hospital the day of the shooting. He has full movement and no nerve damage, she said.

Meanwhile, four other families are reeling over the deaths of their loved ones. Another deputy, Malachi McCoy, shot and killed Bello Garcia. Bello Garcia's estranged wife, Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, 44, and her friends, Hillsborough Fire Rescue Capt. Chris Artigas, 45, and Regina Ann Coffaro, 44, died by Bello Garcia's gunfire.

A third deputy, Art Lence, was released from St. Joseph's. He was shot in his torso.

"It just blows my mind," Katie said. "I want to know what was going through (Bello Garcia's) head."

Katie said she prays for the other victims and their families. Her faith provides the only good lens through which she can sort her questions.

In Katie's mind, her father is still the strong, tall, funny man he's always been. But she knows he'll go back on the streets. For the first time in her life, she's worried.

"It's going to be scary," she said, "but it's what he loves to do."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

For first time, deputy's daughter feared for dad 06/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 11:10am]

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