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Man survives two gunshots after reported suicide attempt in West Tampa

TAMPA — Neighbors noticed the 74-year-old man hadn't been watering his plants. His family said he had been depressed.

Then, near dawn Tuesday, police were summoned to the little house on Tampania Avenue, where Umberto Ferrara had a gun and said he wanted to die.

He started firing, hitting himself once in the head, police said. When he turned the weapon on Officer Dan Evers, the officer fired back.

Despite two gunshot wounds, Ferrara was alive Tuesday night, though in critical condition at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

It's unclear whether the officer's bullet hit Ferrara, or if he was again struck by one of his own. Police don't know, because doctors decided not to immediately risk surgery to get the bullets, according to spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The commotion started about 6:30 a.m., shortly after police got a 911 call. Ferrara's wife told police her husband was depressed, armed and sitting on the back porch of their home at 4414 N Tampania Ave.

Seconds later, Ferrara called 911 to say he was going to kill himself.

When officers arrived and heard gunshots, two ran around to the left side but couldn't open the gate. Evers went to the right.

Evers told Ferrara to drop the gun, but he didn't and instead pointed it the officer so Evers fired his gun, McElroy said.

Paramedics rushed Ferrara to St. Joseph's Hospital. Police say he had two gunshot wounds, one of which was a self-inflicted shot to the head.

Ferrara's family told police the man had been depressed for the past six weeks over health problems. Police wouldn't elaborate, and Ferrara's family declined to comment.

A neighbor said she noticed about three weeks ago that Ferrara wasn't watering his plants as he normally did. She asked his wife, Caterina Ferrara, if he was okay, and she learned that he was sick and had been in a hospital.

"She said, 'He's doing good, he's doing better,' " said the neighbor, Caridad Grau.

Grau didn't press for details.

In the hours after the shooting, about a dozen police cars converged on the area, just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Caterina Ferrara, 60, sat in a car outside the house while investigators and detectives swept the property. A man and woman comforted her as she spoke with officers.

Umberto Ferrara doesn't have a criminal history in Florida. Neighbors say he appeared to be a nice, quiet man who kept to himself and didn't work. His wife is a seamstress, Grau said.

Evers will be on paid leave while the shooting is investigated. The State Attorney's Office will conduct an independent review of the incident, and both the Police Department's internal affairs bureau and the homicide shooting team will investigate.

Evers has worked for Tampa police since 2001 and was a Florida Highway Patrol trooper before then. His personnel file shows many commendations from his time on patrol and narcotics squads. It has no letters of discipline.

He was praised by several supervisors for being safety conscious and aware of his surroundings.

Officers occasionally get caught up in suicide situations, which can be traumatic, said Greg Stout, president of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, the police union.

Evers will have the option of talking with a police psychologist.

"You're trained to save lives," Stout said. "You're trained to help people and in this case and others like it, none of that is occurring."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

Man survives two gunshots after reported suicide attempt in West Tampa 07/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 6:50am]
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