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Deputy cleared in death of man pointing toy gun at him

Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Ratcliff was justified when he shot and killed Juan Enrique Garcia after Garcia pointed a toy gun at the deputy on Oct. 15 during a domestic disturbance call, the State Attorney's Office ruled Wednesday. "After Deputy Ratcliff instructed him for the third time to disarm himself, Garcia raised the apparent gun and pointed it in the direction of Deputy Ratcliff," State Attorney Harry Lee Coe wrote in his ruling. "With no cover nearby, fearing for his life and that of Auxiliary Deputy Christopher White, Deputy Ratcliff fired three times at Mr. Garcia." Ratcliff responded to the call at 2:50 a.m. at the Flying Cloud Mobile Home Park, 14205 N Nebraska Ave., sheriff's officials said. Ratcliff confronted Garcia on the screened porch at Lot 34A after identifying himself as a deputy. Garcia reached into the waistband of his trousers, drew a gun and pointed it at Ratcliff, officials said. The deputy ordered him to drop his weapon, and when he didn't, Ratcliff fired three shots, killing Garcia. The gun later was found to be a toy. "He was confronted by an agitated man who was armed and acting aggressively. The fact that the apparent gun was later determined to be a replica does not affect the outcome," Coe said. "Even when illuminated by a flashlight and viewed from a distance of about 3 feet, it appeared real. The death of Juan Garcia is tragic. However, no criminal charges are warranted under these circumstances." Ratcliff, who has been on administrative leave with pay since the shooting, will be back on duty today.


PINELLAS TO BUY ELECTRIC BUS. The Pinellas County's bus system is buying an electric-powered bus as part of an experiment to see how the technology works. Directors of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on Wednesday unanimously approved spending up to $180,000 for the electric bus. That money already was designated for the project in the form of grants from other agencies, said PSTA Executive Director Roger Sweeney. It is not yet clear where the 22-foot-long bus will operate, but it should be ready to go by summer, officials said. Florida Power will provide a solar-power station to refuel the bus, Sweeney said.

WHO WILL BE THE LUCKY WINNER? Today 36-year-old Billy Myers of Pinellas Park stands to enjoy a lot more. Myers is one of seven people who will gather at the Greater Jacksonville Fair to see if they've won the 27th Instant Game Million Dollar Grand Prize Drawing. Myers is a student at Pinellas Technical Institute in Clearwater. "I'd like to buy a house and support my mother for the rest of her life," he told lottery officials. The other finalists include Tampa resident Rita Roehsner, and residents of Gainesville, Miami, Daytona, Riviera Beach and Sanford.

USF PROVOST SEARCH LIST NARROWED. A search committee at the University of South Florida in Tampa has narrowed the list of provost candidates from 15 to 6 on Wednesday. The list includes interim provost Michael Kovac, but his inclusion was by no means unanimous. Several committee members said Kovac lacked the broad experience of some of the other candidates. Kovac, who has been at USF since 1977, was made interim provost last January, shortly after Betty Castor became university president. The provost is USF's chief academic officer and No. 2 executive under the president. The process is expected to take at least until January. In addition to Kovac, the other candidates are: Anne Hopkins, vice president for arts, sciences and engineering at the University of Minnesota; Gary Krahenbuhl, dean of the college of liberal arts at Arizona State University; Marvin Querry, executive vice provost and executive dean for academic affairs at the University of Missouri at Kansas City; Thomas Tighe, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut; and John Wiesenfeld, vice president for academic programs and planning at Cornell University.