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Man shot by police in Pasco had long record

NEW PORT RICHEY — Mark Brooks Lee's criminal record is 30 pages long.

And yet for the past nine years, Lee, 42, had been out of trouble.

That is, until Friday night, when New Port Richey police responded to a call about a domestic disturbance at 6130 Corson Ave. They found Lee outside his apartment complex, ranting and holding a butcher's knife, said Lt. Jeffrey Harrington.

Lee ran toward the two officers, Harrington said. Cpl. Matt Berry drew his gun and shot twice, killing him.

It remains unclear why Lee charged at the officers, or what sparked the disturbance.

It will be up to investigators to determine whether the shooting was justified. Berry also had a Taser but did not use it.

New Port Richey police are conducting an internal investigation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office are also investigating.

Berry, a veteran officer, is on paid administrative leave until the investigations are complete.

Harrington said Berry's decision to use his gun was prompted by how quickly the situation occurred. "There are times with such a rapid escalation of force that police respond in a specific way," Harrington said Monday. "They had Tasers, but the officer made a snap decision to use appropriate force."

Friday's incident was not the first time Berry has fired at a suspect during his 10-year career in New Port Richey.

In 2001, Berry was one of eight law enforcement officers who fired weapons during a 15-minute police chase in New Port Richey.

During the chase, the suspect rammed into six police cruisers and tried to run down more than one officer.

The year before, the American Legion Paradise Post 79 named Berry its Law Officer of the Year for his positive attitude and community work teaching bicycle safety at elementary schools.

On Monday afternoon, no one answered the door at Lee's apartment. Little is known about him aside from his criminal record, which includes a host of convictions for obtaining property using bad checks.

In October of 1993, a charge of battery against a pregnant spouse was dropped. A month later, an aggravated battery charge was also dropped. Lee's last offense was a 1999 probation violation in Pinellas County on a DUI charge.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Man shot by police in Pasco had long record 11/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 24, 2008 8:47pm]
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