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Hundreds stranded as suicidal man causes Dunedin Causeway standoff

DUNEDIN — A 44-year-old man who was threatening suicide gave himself up to sheriff's deputies Monday night, ending a standoff that shut down the Dunedin Causeway for much of the afternoon and into the evening and stranded hundreds of visitors on Honeymoon Island.

Fred W. Mock, a Tarpon Springs man, was taken to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, the Sheriff's Office said.

As the standoff wore on Monday, sheriff's officials made arrangements for motorists to leave the island. Authorities parked an armored sheriff's vehicle between the armed man's pickup and the road, shielding a stretch of the causeway. Then a state trooper led convoys of 15 to 20 cars off the island and over the causeway to the mainland.

Several dozen bicyclists riding in the 15th annual Bike Florida, a weeklong camping tour, were stuck on Honeymoon Island for eight hours.

Three PSTA buses collected the cyclists and their bicycles shortly after 9 p.m. The buses took them to the Ross Norton Recreation Center in Clearwater, where the riders were to camp for the night.

"All in all, it was an amazing day in the Florida sunshine. I thought I would be sleeping in the nature center tonight," said Judy Smith, 61, Temperance, Mich.

On the way out, motorists could see heavily camouflaged SWAT team snipers lying down across the road from the pickup. In the first convoy to leave was a pickup with five people, including a badly sunburned girl, hunkered down in the bed of the truck.

Cousins Jason Wilhelm and Jessica Guggi saw the confrontation that led authorities to close both directions of the causeway for at least 6 1/2 hours. They had parked alongside the causeway and spread out towels to sunbathe when deputies pulled over a late-model silver pickup just after 1 p.m.

From about 25 feet away, Wilhelm and Guggi watched as a deputy approached the pickup. The truck's driver rolled down the driver's side window and leaned out with a handgun pointed to his head, they said.

Times staff writer Eileen Schulte contributed to this report.

Hundreds stranded as suicidal man causes Dunedin Causeway standoff 03/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 1:05pm]
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