TAMPA — Ronald Bullock made MacDill Air Force Base his home even though he was no longer in the military.
Decades had passed since a grenade blew up on him in Vietnam, rendering him disabled, his brother said. But as a veteran with a military ID, he could stay at the base's campground for six months at a time.
Bullock, 61, didn't have a family or a job. He told his uncle he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"He took a mess of pills to keep him going, to keep him cool," said his uncle, Phil Sullivan, 80, of Tampa.
Ever since Vietnam, he struggled with drugs and alcohol, his brother said. In 1994, Bullock got four years of probation for aggravated assault on a public servant in Texas. Three years later, he was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance.
Still, his family never thought it would come to this.
Three officers knocked on Sullivan's door Wednesday night and explained that Bullock had been involved in an altercation at MacDill.
He had confronted an off-duty FBI agent with a knife, they said.
That agent fatally shot him.
"They said there was an altercation," Sullivan said. "Everybody uses that word: 'altercation.' "
Officials have released few details about the altercation. His family said they also have few details.
"I don't have any information. I only know what I've read," said his brother, Donald Bullock of North Carolina. "But it doesn't seem like his character. He wasn't a violent person."
Sullivan thought the officers' visit had been a dream, until he woke up Thursday and saw a business card on his table.
His last conversation with his nephew was at lunch at the Taste of Boston at Ballast Point Park, where Bullock ordered the usual — a large haddock platter with coleslaw and sweet potato fries.
They talked Boston sports.
"We had great hope for the Celtics," Sullivan said. "But those Red Sox sure are doing lousy."
Bullock went back to the base, and Sullivan ran errands.
• • •
When Ronald Bullock bought a trailer years ago, he had dreams of the open road. But as soon as he arrived in Florida six years ago, he was hooked.
"He would fish 25 hours a day, if he could," Sullivan said.
Bullock settled down at FamCamp, the campground at MacDill. Rent was about $400 a month, and he followed the rules: He'd stay for six months, then spend a month off base at his uncle's Tampa home. Then he'd go back.
It seemed like a good deal, Sullivan said.
Then, Wednesday evening, an altercation broke out at the camp. Bullock took off on a motorcycle with security officials in pursuit, according to Col. Larry Martin, the 6th Air Mobility Wing commander.
He became aggressive, and the pursuit continued, Martin said. When Bullock arrived at the gate on S Dale Mabry Highway, he got off the motorcycle and pulled a knife on the FBI agent.
The agent opened fire, hitting Bullock at least once, Martin said.
Rescue workers arrived just before 7 p.m., but Bullock died at the scene, said Tampa Fire Rescue.
The FBI doesn't plan to release the agent's name for security reasons, said Dave Couvertier, an FBI spokesman in Tampa.
The incident remains under investigation but doesn't appear to be an act of terrorism, Martin said.
An FBI shooting incident response team arrived from Washington, D.C., on Thursday to review the case. The inquiry will determine if the shooting was consistent with the FBI's deadly force policy.
Such reviews occur whenever an FBI agent is involved in a shooting, Couvertier said. The team will work with Tampa police, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and Air Force security forces. The team may also interview witnesses, including the agent involved.
The FBI expects to complete its review within two weeks, and its Shooting Incident Review Group will determine if the shooting complied with FBI policy.
Late Thursday afternoon, Sullivan said had his own questions. He got into his car and headed to MacDill to get answers, he said.
"I want to know what this altercation was," he said. Then he drove off.
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.