Troubled dad, deadly end

Melissa Velez, 27, peers into the porch of her neighbor, Dallas Carter, who was killed by Pinellas Park police in a shootout late Saturday. His two children were in bed when he called 911. Carter fired at least 30 rounds from his home, police said.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Melissa Velez, 27, peers into the porch of her neighbor, Dallas Carter, who was killed by Pinellas Park police in a shootout late Saturday. His two children were in bed when he called 911. Carter fired at least 30 rounds from his home, police said.

PINELLAS PARK — From inside his Shadow Run apartment, Edwin Nunez heard a man cry for help Saturday night.

Why me? Why me?

An unidentified neighbor heard the screams of a man deranged.

Kill me. Just kill me.

Neighbor Glendale Stephens heard the shouts of a man in pain.

Stop, stop, you're hurting me.

They all heard deadly gunfire late Saturday when their neighbor, 44-year-old Dallas Carter, stepped out of his apartment, a pistol and a rifle in hand, to confront the police.

• • •

Pinellas Park police came to Shadow Run Apartments at 12001 Belcher Road, apartment B28, after a caller told a 911 dispatcher at 10:58 p.m. that he was disturbed and armed with a .40-caliber pistol. He said his two children, 8- and 13-year-old boys, were in bed. He hung up when asked his name.

Police tried Carter's cell phone, but their calls went to voice mail. As officers arrived minutes later, and as a negotiator attempted to get in position to speak to him, Carter fired at least 30 rounds from the pistol and a .30-30 hunting rifle. Police said he fired from inside his apartment in various directions.

Soon afterward, the children ran from the apartment. At 11:32 p.m. Carter came out of his apartment with the guns pointing at officers in the breezeway, according to police. The officers ordered him to drop his weapons. When he did not, three officers reportedly fired 10 rounds, killing him.

Pinellas Park police Officers Michael Erwin, Adam Smotrich and Alexandro Aguilar have been placed on administrative leave while investigations by police and the Pinellas Pasco State Attorney's Office continue.

The children are in the custody of Florida Department of Children and Families. Sunday morning, their bikes, one red and one green, were parked on the patio in the broken glass.

"He was just trying to do the best he could by his kids," said Melissa Harper, a resident of the apartment complex. "My heart breaks for those boys."

Carter left a note, but police have not released its contents.

• • •

Neighbors said Dallas Carter was a single dad who constantly struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table. He had a pronounced limp from a disabling back injury that forced him to use a cane to get around, they said.

"He always talked about needing help — financially and help with the kids," said neighbor Kevin Luster, 23.

Carter lost his job several months ago after he reinjured his back while working, said neighbor Melissa Velez.

Recently, he seemed even more upset. He told neighbors his food stamps had been cut back and he couldn't pay his water bill.

On Saturday, Carter came over to see Velez, 27, who lives across from him. He had an eviction notice with him, she said.

Velez and Luster said the apartment complex requires tenants pay their water bill with their rent.

A few times over the past year, Carter's electricity had been shut off, though he still had power at the time of the shooting, Velez said. When it was off, Velez would let him use her microwave to heat up meals for the children.

Velez said she tried to help the family, most recently bringing over a chicken and rice dinner. This past Christmas, she and her mom bought presents for the kids. They delivered them anonymously, she said, to make sure the boys had a present to open.

"I haven't slept very much because of this," she said.

Neighbor Kna Krajan, 24, said Carter's sons were at her house almost every day to play with her children. Carter was a doting father, she said.

"He wants what's best for his kids, he just doesn't have the finances to do it," she said.

Krajan was home at the time of the shooting and heard the gunshots — one of which hit her screen door.

"He's just been so depressed," she said. "He kept telling us he doesn't know what to do."

Neighbor Laura Miller reached the same conclusion.

"He seemed very, very down, and like he didn't know where to turn next. He didn't know what to do,'' said Miller, 42.

Edwin Nunez said he sat awake with his wife and 6-year-old son, George, as gunfire erupted below them. He told George that the screaming man went to the hospital.

"He's too young to explain it to," Nunez said. "I don't know how to."

Troubled dad, deadly end 07/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 3:17pm]

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