That David Crawford had a stress-filled, dangerous job is obvious now. He was shot and killed Monday night doing what he had done for 25 years, fighting crime as a St. Petersburg police officer.
Understandably, he wanted peace when he was off duty, and for a decade or so, eastern Hernando County was where he found it. He and his former wife, Lori, both liked to ride horses and, in the early 1990s, moved to Ridge Manor. A few years later, Paige Cool, owner of a horse boarding business a few miles to the west, hired Lori Crawford as her barn manager.
The couple moved to a double-wide mobile home on the lot next to Cool's, she said, and Crawford became an unpaid, always-on-call handyman.
He did a lot of little jobs and at least one big one, helping fix the roof of Cool's barn after it was damaged by a violent storm. He rode his quarter horse mare, Gypsy, on the trails in the nearby Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest. He liked barbecuing "and just hanging out," she said. He was "just a good guy, a great guy."
It's not quite right to say Hernando County has been lucky when it comes to violence against law enforcement officers.
Just two years ago, Sheriff's Capt. Scott Bierwiler died while driving to work before 6 a.m. He was struck by an oncoming car, not a bullet, and there was no evidence the driver meant to do him harm. Nevertheless, the county lost one of its most respected deputies, a presumptive future sheriff.
Then, there were the close calls of last August.
A man named Robert Capkovic holed up in his house and shot and wounded a deputy, Lance Origon, who had entered the house; Capkovic was then killed by deputies who returned fire. Two days later in Brooksville, a man shot a police dog and shot at deputies and Brooksville police officers before they shot and killed him.
And, of course, in 1978, Deputy Lonnie Coburn was murdered in Ridge Manor by two men who had raped and killed a pregnant woman near Leesburg.
Still, our law enforcement officers had escaped the most recent carnage: two police officers killed in Tampa last year and two killed in St. Petersburg last month.
After a two-year decline, the number of on-duty deaths nationally spiked to 162 last year, according to the website of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. And, before Monday, at least eight law officers in Florida had died on duty in 2011, including two of heart attacks and one in a car accident.
And that was before the death of Crawford, 46. Most recently a resident of Crystal River, he lived most of his life and spent all of his career in St. Petersburg, where he volunteered to work night shifts and had a knack for handling domestic disputes. His death is that city's tragedy primarily.
But Crawford's daughter, Amanda, 24, still lives in eastern Hernando County. He has some good friends here. This tragedy hit close enough to home to remind us that, despite generally falling crime rates in recent years, "there are a lot of people out there who have no respect for law enforcement," said Brooksville police Chief George Turner. "It's a dangerous world."
For police officers, it certainly is. How many of us would have the courage to do our jobs if we faced that kind of odds of dying? It's a good time to ask ourselves that and, once again, be grateful.