Thursday, December 14, 2017
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?

Comments

Second Ruskin man sought in theft of cell tower equipment that interrupted service

TAMPA —The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has obtained a warrant for the arrest of a second suspect in the theft of batteries from cell phone towers that interrupted phone service and the 911 emergency call system.Investigators are looking for ...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

A Jacksonville boy, 2, who was reported missing early Thursday morning, has been found safe.A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for Legend Jones, who had last been seen in the 1900 block of Fouraker Road in Jacksonville, according to the ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Palm Harbor woman, 23, killed while crossing Seminole Boulevard

SEMINOLE — A Palm Harbor woman was killed Thursday night after she was struck by an SUV while crossing Seminole Boulevard.The incident occurred around 8:45 p.m. just north of 53rd Avenue N, deputies said.According to deputies, 23-year-old Kala Gombos...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Crash downs power lines, closes N Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — A portion of North Florida Avenue is closed in downtown Tampa as TECO crews repair downed power lines after a crash late Wednesday night.The crash occurred around 11:35 p.m. at the intersection of N Florida Avenue and E Fortune Street, accord...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff disciplines deputies in arrest, but not for excessive force (w/video)

Pinellas sheriff disciplines deputies in arrest, but not for excessive force (w/video)

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has suspended two deputies after an internal investigation found they violated agency policies during the arrest of a 25-year-old man that turned violent.The sheriff handed down 15 days to Deputy Alexander Edge, who Gua...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

ST. PETERSBURG — Police have arrested several people, including a son of a prominent flooring store chain’s late founder, as part of an investigation into the death of a 22-year-old woman whose body was found in an alley last year. The w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Published: 12/13/17
St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

ST. PETERSBURG — A long-tenured St. Petersburg police sergeant and executive vice president of the local police union is being demoted to the rank of officer after he threw a bullet at another sergeant while on duty, the department said Wednesday.Jam...
Published: 12/13/17

Train strikes stalled semi, out spills frozen chicken, beef and fish

LAKELAND — Residents got some frozen treats the hard way Wednesday morning, hours after a CSX train struck a semitrailer truck, splitting it in half and spilling its load of frozen beef, chicken and fish onto the roadway.The train was traveling from ...
Published: 12/13/17

Highlands County students hurt when semi hits school bus

Four Highlands County school children and their bus driver were injured Wednesday morning when their school bus was struck by a semitrailer truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place just before 8 a.m. on U.S. 27 and Lake Pla...
Published: 12/13/17