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Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter carries on legacy of father slain 30 years ago

TAMPA — The lobby of Fire Station 1 is no longer open and airy, but walled off with glass and metal. A bullet hole is still visible in a garage door 30 years later. Photos of fallen firemen and news clippings about the murder sit in a neighboring firefighter's museum.

And over at Station 5, a legacy lives on through a fire captain named Franz Glenn Warner Jr.

Warner, who goes by Glenn, was 10 when his father was shot to death at Fire Station 1. Aside from his very distraught mother and a neighbor who told him what she heard on the radio, Warner remembers little about that day.

He's tired of people asking about it.

He no longer gets the looks and comments he got when he first joined Tampa Fire Rescue 17 years ago. He was grateful for some of the veteran chiefs who looked out for him but felt strange about the attention.

"I guess I look like my father," Warner said. "I came across some people that acted like they saw a ghost."

Almost all of those guys are retired now. And Warner still has a job to do.

• • •

Most who lived in the Tampa Bay area on Aug. 4, 1981, may remember the shocking workplace shooting.

"It was unheard of," said District Chief Toby Hart, the only Tampa Fire employee from back then who has not yet retired. "It gave us the realization that Tampa had, unfortunately, come of age into a violent world."

A man wearing blue coveralls, his face masked by a motorcycle helmet, walked into Station 1 downtown and began firing a handgun. He killed a young rookie firefighter named Isaac Royal and the well-respected district chief and 40-year-old father of two, Franz Warner. A third firefighter was wounded.

Gunman Anthony L. D'Arcangelo, a disgruntled firefighter who had been fired several months earlier after only a month on the job, was arrested at his home eight hours after the shooting. He is in prison for life.

Meanwhile, the Fire Department healed and moved forward.

Warner's widow, Elaine, and young son and daughter did their best to move on, too.

It wasn't easy.

"Instead of two children, it was like three children," said Elaine, 65, who never remarried. "My husband took care of us. I had never had anyone close to me die, and to go through this in such a public way. … I was at a loss."

Glenn was suddenly the 10-year-old man of the house, a job he took seriously. Elaine doesn't remember him talking about his father much. He was a "super-sensitive fellow," she said, but very strong and stoic.

Warner remembers going to work with his dad and sliding down the fire pole. He always wanted to be a fireman, but by the time he graduated from high school he felt a bit lost. He quit college classes and worked for an electric company, mostly opting to have fun rather than focus on a career.

But by his mid-20s, he began growing up. He went through fire academy training and worked for the Pasco and Hillsborough Fire Departments for a few years.

He joined Tampa Fire Rescue in 1994. He married, had two sons, divorced. Like his father, he enjoyed the firefighter's schedule of one day on and two off, spending whole days at a time with his kids.

He also began showing leadership "just like his father did, apparently," said retired Capt. Bill Wade, who served at the same time as Warner's father. Last year, the younger Warner was promoted to captain, and Wade believes Warner is on pace to become a district chief.

Just like his dad.

Warner shrugs off the comparison. "It's what I get paid to do," he said.

• • •

The profession has evolved in 30 years. Firefighters spend more time on medical calls than fire calls. Leadership turned over, training got more complex. More women joined, veterans left, younger folks took their place. Old firehouse memories were replaced by new firehouse memories.

Glenn Warner is not the only second-generation firefighter member of Tampa Fire Rescue. Several sons have joined over the years, and many looked just like younger, skinnier versions of their fathers, Wade said.

"It's almost like looking into a rearview mirror," he said.

Warner, at 5 feet 11, doesn't think he's a spitting image of his 6-foot-6 father. But his mother and others who knew Warner Sr. note his son has the same sense of humor, the same walk, the same look in his eyes.

Warner is now 40, the same age his father was when he was killed. But he'd prefer not to dwell on the similarities, or what he remembers, or how he feels about it all.

It's just a job, he said. And he wants to do it well.

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter carries on legacy of father slain 30 years ago 09/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 12:11am]
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