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New Port Richey man is shot after he threatens himself, deputies

A witness talks to Pasco County Sheriff’s detectives Tuesday morning outside the New Port Richey home where a man was shot twice by a deputy.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

A witness talks to Pasco County Sheriff’s detectives Tuesday morning outside the New Port Richey home where a man was shot twice by a deputy.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Last December, Pasco deputies met Shawn Cunningham's girlfriend at a fast-food joint on U.S. 19 to get his house keys. He was distraught, she told them, and might not come to the door.

She warned that he might attempt "suicide by cop."

That day, officials say, deputies were able to smoothly take Cunningham into custody under the Baker Act, to keep him from harming himself.

But on Tuesday morning, a similar drama unfolded at his house on Straits Lane — this time ending with a deputy shooting Cunningham in the chest and arm. He is expected to recover.

Just after 9 a.m., someone called 911 from Cunningham's Beacon Square home. When deputies and paramedics arrived, Cunningham was armed with a knife, threatening his own life and the deputies, sheriff's Col. Al Nienhuis said.

Deputy Curtis Vigness first fired a Taser to try to subdue Cunningham. It had little effect.

Cunningham, 42, dropped his knife, then grabbed another, Nienhuis said.

Then, authorities say, Cunningham advanced on the deputies.

Deputy Edward Tucker fired his agency-issued .40-caliber Glock, striking Cunningham.

Cunningham's injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Nienhuis said. He was treated Tuesday at an undisclosed area hospital.

Following standard procedure, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, and Tucker, a 10-year department veteran, is on paid administrative leave.

Neighbors said Cunningham's house, no less tidy than the others on this well-kept street, has a reputation for noise and trouble.

Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said records showed a number of 911 calls to the house, including a domestic battery complaint from last year, which is no longer active.

"He's the baddest element in our neighborhood," said 42-year-old Eric King, who lives around the corner.

Neighbor Betty Ostrander said there's often loud music pumping from Cunningham's pool deck.

"He keeps everybody up at night," she said.

Records show Cunningham has one prior arrest in Florida. Pasco deputies arrested him in January 2007 and charged him with misdemeanor battery and criminal mischief. He pleaded no contest.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office added another arrest. The charge this time: aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

New Port Richey man is shot after he threatens himself, deputies 09/30/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 9:38am]
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