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Three deputies cleared in shooting

Three Hillsborough sheriff's deputies were justified in shooting a robbery suspect who sat, armed, in the back of a taxi cab last month, the Hillsborough state attorney has determined.

In a letter sent Thursday to Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, State Attorney Mark Ober said the use of force by Sgt. Leonard Diaz, Sgt. Anthony Shephard and Deputy Dennis Fogerty was proper because they acted in self-defense.

"The suspect, William Ram, possessed a firearm and displayed it in such a manner as to cause each of your deputies to fear for each of their own lives," Ober wrote.

Authorities spent the week before the Dec. 14 confrontation trying to catch Ram, who was suspected in seven area robberies in as many days.

Acting on a tip from a taxi driver, deputies surrounded Ram as he sat in the back of the taxi in the parking lot of a north Tampa gas station. They told him to get out of the cab, but he pulled out a gun instead, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The deputies shot Ram four times, and Ram shot himself once, according to Sheriff's Office reports. He was was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in critical condition. Ram, 35, has since recovered and was released to the county jail, where he is being held without bail on eight felony charges including armed kidnapping and armed robbery.

Investigators say just hours before they confronted Ram, he robbed a Carrollwood Starbucks and ordered a man in a pickup outside to drive him from the scene. They say he then robbed the Mercantile Bank at 5201 N Lois Ave. The manager of the bank told investigators that Ram said, "They are already looking for me. I've got nothing to lose."

Detectives got a warrant for Ram's arrest that afternoon.

"He was basically on a rampage that day," Gee said Friday. "There are people out there who are going to be violent, and they're only going to go down one way. The deputies clearly did what they had to do under the circumstances, and I don't think the state attorney could have reached any other conclusion."

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or