1. Archive

Suspect's mental state was a concern

Driving back from Daytona Beach with a teenager who might hold clues to the June 1 shooting death of a Pasco County deputy, professional football player Darren Hambrick worried the young man might be suicidal.

In a September deposition, Hambrick _ who played last year in the National Football League but has been out of the game this year _ told prosecutor Phil Van Allen and public defender Tom Hanlon about his involvement in the hunt for Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison's killer.

Harrison, 57, was killed by a sniper's bullet as he sat in his patrol car on duty outside a Trilacoochee nightclub June 1. Two days later, Hambrick drove to Daytona Beach with Regina Clemmons to pick up her 19-year-old son, Alfredie Steele Jr., and deliver him to waiting Pasco Sheriff's Office investigators.

Lead detective Jennifer Christensen testified that Steele admitted shooting into Harrison's cruiser but said he didn't mean to hurt anyone.

Investigators say Steele was upset about the death of friends, including one killed in a car crash after he was pursued by deputies.

Hambrick, in a Sept. 16 deposition, said his first involvement came as word of Harrison's death flashed through the Lacoochee community. Deputies were knocking on doors asking questions.

Hambrick said he ended up talking with Clemmons, a family friend, and then to Nathaniel Vanzant, one of Steele's cousins.

Vanzant, Hambrick said, wanted to talk with investigators about the shooting but was afraid he would be the main suspect. Vanzant was afraid the police would "shoot him or kill him," Hambrick said.

Hambrick said he knew Dade City police Chief Phil Thompson and trusted the chief could arrange a meeting with detectives for the Sheriff's Office. When it was set up, Hambrick took Vanzant to Dade City.

"He was scared of the police," but basically told them he thought Steele "had something to do with it," Hambrick said.

As investigators looked for Steele, Hambrick and Clemmons learned he was in Daytona Beach and arranged to pick him up and bring him home in Hambrick's sport utility vehicle.

On the ride home, Clemmons tried to ask her son about the shooting, Hambrick said. Nothing was going on, Steele said.

"I said, "How do you feel right now?' He said, "You want me to tell you how I feel?' He said, "I feel like jumping out the back of this truck.' "

Hambrick said he and Clemmons worried that Steele could be suicidal and could jump from the moving SUV. They changed the subject, talking instead about old times in the neighborhood to lighten the mood. Sheriff's deputies were waiting when they drove into Lacoochee and escorted them to Dade City.

Hanlon repeatedly asked Hambrick if he thought Steele was guilty. Hambrick refused to answer.

But Hambrick did offer one thought on the case, after Hanlon wondered aloud why people in Lacoochee _ especially black residents _ were so willing to talk about Harrison's shooting and offer suggestions and help, when in the past many in the community refused to talk about other cases.

"Because it was a black cop," Hambrick said.