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Owner threatens suicide once eviction goes awry

William Francisco went to his rental property northwest of Brooksville on Friday morning to evict tenants who he said had missed two $300 monthly rent payments.

Francisco, 61, told the tenants to pack their bags, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, but they would not leave the property at 19416 Peyton Place.

A frustrated Francisco went to his beat-up '74 Ford pickup truck, pulled out a rifle and held the barrel to his neck, threatening to kill himself. His wife called the Sheriff's Office, and after nearly three hours, Francisco surrendered to authorities.

Francisco was taken to Greenbrier Hospital under authority of the state Baker Act, which empowers police to take to hospitals for mental evaluation people who appear likely to harm themselves or others.

"He claims that he has gone through all that he knows to evict these people," said Maj. G. Z. Smith, who supervised the Sheriff's Office operation. "This is his way of bringing the situation to light."

The incident started just before 8 a.m. when William and Rose Francisco went to evict Jennifer Watters, 23, and another tenant. Neither tenant could be reached for comment.

Rose Francisco said her husband, a disabled construction worker, was in a foul mood and "had had it with the justice system and those who don't pay the rent." Rose Francisco said he was also upset with the county for accusing him of code violations.

Francisco, dressed in blue cotton work clothes, went to his truck and got the rifle. For much of the morning, the gray-haired man propped himself against the driver's seat of the truck with his feet on the street. He held the rifle against his neck.

He fastened a rope around his neck and tied it to the rifle. Another rope linked his foot to the trigger.

Rose Francisco called the Sheriff's Office about 8 a.m. Soon after, swarms of sheriff's officials _ deputies, plainclothes supervisors and the SWAT team, wearing green fatigues and helmets _ converged. Authorities said the SWAT team was there to prevent Francisco from injuring people nearby.

Sheriff's patrol vehicles clogged the oak-tree-lined streets in a neighborhood that is a patchwork of mobile homes and single-family dwellings.

Sgt. Michael H. Maurer spent much of the hot, humid morning talking to Francisco through a bullhorn as deputies evacuated nearby mobile homes and kept spectators at bay. Rose Francisco, her son, John Francisco, and residents of the neighborhood watched from about 100 yards away.

Maurer, wearing a bulletproof vest over his green uniform, talked continuously to Francisco, who repeatedly asked to speak to the news media to complain about his troubles.

At about 10:45 _ nearly three hours after the incident began _ Maurer convinced Francisco to end the standoff. As his wife sobbed and hugged her son, Francisco untied the rifle, put it in his truck, locked the door and walked toward authorities about 100 feet away.

Sheriff's officials cuffed him and put him in an ambulance.

As he was led away, Francisco told a Times photographer: "I'm tired of rolling over. All I want to get is a fair shake."