NEW PORT RICHEY — A 54-year-old man has died following a confrontation with police in which he was hit with a stun gun multiple times.
It started Dec. 10 when William "Billy" Shirlaw argued in the street with an unnamed pedestrian near the River Side Inn on U.S. 19. He punched the pedestrian — who called police — and then wandered into the hotel.
New Port Richey police Officer Greg Williams said Shirlaw became violent inside the lobby. Port Richey police officers arrived and subdued him with stun guns, Williams said, after Shirlaw punched and kicked the officers.
Shirlaw, who lived in an apartment at 7435 U.S. 19 in New Port Richey, was transported to Morton Plant North Bay Hospital and put on life support. His family decided to take him off life support Sunday, and an autopsy was performed Monday.
Shirlaw's father, Joseph Shirlaw, 78, said his son suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and needed psychiatric help. Records show William Shirlaw has been arrested in Pasco County several times on charges ranging from battery on an elderly person to possession of cocaine. Joseph Shirlaw said his son was "no angel," but didn't deserve to be killed.
"My son was not armed," he said. "He was in shorts and no shirt."
He liked to cook biscuits and gravy, his father said, and may have been delivering the food to someone before he got into a confrontation.
Joseph Shirlaw says the officers killed his son. Williams says the officers acted reasonably given the circumstances.
"There was nothing that seemed excessive (about the officers' actions)," Williams said. He was called in because the incident happened just over the city limit in New Port Richey. Port Richey police were the first to respond.
The incident is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at the request of Port Richey police Chief Dave Brown.
FDLE spokeswoman Samantha Andrews said the agency generally does not release information about open cases. She said the investigation began the day of the incident and the agency's job is to find out if anything criminal took place.
Lawyer Wil Florin is representing the family in a potential lawsuit. Florin said William Shirlaw was hit with the stun gun in his carotid artery, and that may have contributed to Shirlaw's death.
"The death penalty is not applicable to getting into a fight in the street," he said.