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Kmart suicide victim helped others, struggled with depression

David Shafley was a caregiver to both of his elderly parents: a mother in her 90s with Alzheimer's disease and an 86-year-old father who has ailments that come with age.

He was the friend who delivered a bouquet of roses and carnations to his neighbor for her birthday.

How he became the man who shot and killed himself Saturday after being detained for shoplifting at a Hudson Kmart still baffles one of his closest friends.

"I couldn't imagine him carrying a gun with him," Vivian Ertl said.

Ertl, the neighbor who received that birthday bouquet two weeks ago, befriended Shafley, 52, a kind man who was battling depression.

"He was always worried," she said. Shafley often called Ertl when he was down and she would try to cheer him up.

"Tomorrow is always another day," she would say.

Shafley's anxiety grew after he was arrested in March, Ertl said. Shafley called deputies because he was afraid of his roommate at his Regency Park home in Port Richey, according to reports released Monday by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

But then Shafley grew frustrated that the deputy wasn't going to help, and he swung his bronze walking cane at the deputy, the report said. Shafley was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest without violence.

After his arrest, Shafley was paranoid that he was going back to jail, Ertl said. Whenever a police car drove by he would say: "It's the same policeman. That's him."

On Saturday, loss-prevention officers at the Hudson Kmart detained Shafley, who tried to shoplift $39 worth of rechargeable batteries and bottles of soda. Shafley told the officers he was distraught and having a hard time caring for an elderly relative.

Then he pulled a .22-caliber handgun and fired it at the doorway, where the two Kmart employees were standing, before turning the gun on himself.

His parents, Joseph and Eleanor Shafley, declined to speak with a Times reporter Monday.

Ertl remembered David Shafley as a dependable neighbor who helped whenever he could. She grew emotional Monday as she read the birthday card he gave her two weeks ago.

"To the best neighbor, nicest person and one of the only friends I do have," Ertl read aloud Monday. "You mean a lot to me and I hope you never want to move. … I hope you have the best 68th birthday!"

Ertl stopped reading to laugh.

Shafley knew perfectly well she was turning 80.

Kmart suicide victim helped others, struggled with depression 06/20/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 20, 2011 9:13pm]
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