Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

Dade City woman killed herself after shooting at Pasco deputies

DADE CITY — Detective Allen Proctor stood in the driveway and watched a blue Nissan bump down a dirt road toward him. Cicadas hummed in the Wednesday afternoon sun while he tied a strand of crime scene tape between two gate posts.

The Nissan stopped. A man with a salt-and-pepper beard fumbled with his seat belt then climbed out of the car and walked to the driveway. He looked past Proctor when he spoke. He held his head in his hands and asked about his daughter. "Is she no longer alive?"

Proctor explained what happened hours earlier.

Laura Bennett-Eckert, 49, was going to be arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court for a previous charge of resisting an officer.

Deputies arrived at 10:19 a.m. at her home at 38745 Burger Lane to serve the warrant. They made contact with Bennett-Eckert through the door and asked her to come outside. She refused, instead speaking to deputies through an open window.

Deputies say Bennett-Eckert then fired shots through the window, nearly hitting Detective Monte Schuler. No deputies were injured.

Then Bennett-Eckert barricaded herself in one of the rooms and shot herself in the chest.

She died at the scene.

Last month, the Sheriff's Office announced some of its deputies would undergo training through the National Alliance on Mental Illness to learn how to defuse potentially dangerous scenarios involving people with mental health issues. Schuler is among the deputies receiving the training. But the shots were fired Wednesday before he had a chance to intervene.

Records show a Bennett-Eckert called a deputy out to the house Jan. 17, 2012, the day of her previous arrest. She told the deputy she couldn't get in touch with her sister, who was somewhere in Tampa. The deputy tried to ask more questions, the report states, but Bennett-Eckert became irate and told the deputy he wasn't doing his job.

When the deputy tried to leave, she pulled open the cruiser's door, leaned in and yelled at him again, the report said. She scratched and shoved him before being put in handcuffs and charged with resisting an officer.

Dade City Police have a record of Bennett-Eckert placing a .357-caliber magnum into police custody in 2010. There are no documents indicating whether she ever retrieved the weapon.

On Wednesday afternoon, a man deputies identified as Bennett-Eckert's husband, Fred Eckert, met Patrick Bennett at the gate. The men hugged while Bennett sobbed.

Eckert told him he tried to intervene but his wife picked up a .357 Magnum before he could stop her.

Bennett put a hand on the fence and stared toward the wood-sided mobile home, shaded under oaks. A group of investigators talked in the front yard.

The grieving father looked back at Eckert.

"Why?

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