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SWAT team captures slaying suspect

Published Sep. 18, 1997
Updated Oct. 2, 2005

The Pasco County sheriff's SWAT team staked out a San Antonio home until dawn Wednesday before capturing slaying suspect Thomas Wayne Patterson as he slept.

Sheriff's investigators had searched for Patterson, of 3541 Goolsby Road in Ridge Manor, since the Aug. 8 shooting death of Dade City resident James Dunn.

Patterson, 28, faces one count of first-degree murder, according to Pasco County Sheriff's Office reports.

Patterson did not resist arrest, sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said.

"He immediately asked for an attorney so we did not have a chance to interview him," he said.

Court records show Patterson has been arrested by police in Dade City and Zephyrhills and by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office numerous times in the past 10 years.

His record includes 30 days in jail for violating probation on a possession of marijuana charge in 1989 and six months of probation for driving with a suspended license and fleeing to elude.

He was charged in 1996 with domestic battery, carrying a concealed weapon and violating a domestic violence injunction. He was found in contempt of court for violating the injunction. The battery charge was dropped and the concealed weapons charge was scheduled for trial this month.

Dunn, who was known by the citizen's band radio name "Mechanic," had lived on a lot at the end of Puckett Road for about six months. It is not clear how he and Patterson met or how long the men knew each other.

The early morning shooting followed a night of drinking at J.R.'s Bar on U.S. 301. Two men and one woman drove with Patterson to Dunn's mobile home at the end of Puckett Road, according to a court affidavit.

A friend of Dunn's, who did not want his name used because Dunn's killer had not been caught, told the Times in August that Dunn knew the killer was on his way. The assailant apparently announced his intentions over a CB radio, the friend said.

One of the men, David Wayne Long, knocked on Dunn's door along with Patterson, the affidavit said. Dunn did not initially answer, but eventually came outside.

Patterson and Dunn were arguing when Patterson grabbed a gun from Long and fired two shots, the affidavit said. Long, who had his back turned, spun around and saw Patterson fire two more shots at Dunn, the affidavit said. Long told detectives that he heard another shot as he retreated to the car.

It is unclear how many times Dunn was shot.

Patterson and Long jumped in the car, already occupied by friends Linda Sue Gifford and Timmy Strickland, and drove to Gant Bridge on County Road 478A, the affidavit said. Strickland then disassembled the gun and threw it in the stream below the bridge, the affidavit said.

Acting on Long's advice, a Sheriff's Office dive team found the gun three days later.

The Sheriff's Office has not arrested Gifford, Strickland or Long. They are currently witnesses to the crime, Powers said.

The state attorney's office will interview Gifford, Strickland and Long next week to help determine whether to form a grand jury to try to formally charge Patterson with first-degree murder, said Phil Van Allen, assistant state attorney.

"Right now everything is preliminary," Van Allen said. "We will know the next step to take next week."