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Man deemed criminally insane arrested with van full of guns

David Harris Dunaway, 58, shot another man to death in 1992.
David Harris Dunaway, 58, shot another man to death in 1992.
Published Jan. 1, 2014

TAMPA — A man who shot a trucker to death in 1992 but was judged to be criminally insane seemed nervous Saturday when stopped for speeding east of Gainesville, a deputy reported.

David Harris Dunaway, 58, was wanted by federal authorities, the deputy learned. A grand jury in Tampa had indicted him on a gun charge Dec. 18, alleging that he had a pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition, illegal for someone with Dunaway's medical history.

But in a search of his green Honda van, the deputy found more — 36 guns, 4,629 rounds.

Dunaway of Hawthorne reported that he was headed to the Waldo flea market to sell "some" of his personal collection, according to Alachua County sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey.


Leonard Brower. He was the trucker who pulled his rig off Interstate 75 about a half-hour south of Ocala on July 8, 1992. He was hauling trees to Walt Disney World but left Interstate 75 at the Wildwood exit to buy a map for a side trip to visit family.

It was after midnight when he stopped at an Amoco station, east of a Waffle House.

His girlfriend of more than three years, Marlyon Buckner, was with him. She called him "Len." They had met in a McDonald's after his mother picked her out in a singles ad. He didn't drink or take drugs, Buckner said. He came straight home to Live Oak after road trips. Their terrier would race to the gate at the sound of his truck.

Neither of them knew Dunaway, who had caused a ruckus at the Waffle House that night.

He had ordered a breakfast sandwich but didn't leave enough money to cover the bill. He showed what the waitress thought was a gun. Fleeing, he drove into a ditch and got stuck, then walked up to Brower at the nearby gas station.

"He took his suitcase and threw it on my dad's truck," said Brian Brower of Riverview, one of the driver's grown sons. "It was a flat bed. He asked my father for a ride and my father told him, 'No, it's not my truck and it's not insured to carry a rider.' "

The two men went inside the store. The girlfriend, who had been in the restroom, saw them arguing and scuffling. The clerk closed off a bulletproof compartment, hid and called 911.

"He Maced my father in the face," Brian Brower said, "pulled out a gun and hit him in the head. He knocked him to the floor and fired three shots."

Deputies heard two. They got a call from Waffle House and another from Amoco and were waiting for backup when the scene exploded. Brower, 51, was fatally shot in the back and shoulder.

Sumter County sheriff's Lt. Bobby Caruthers, then a sergeant, says it all happened fast.

"The next thing you know, the guy comes running out and starts coming right to me," he said. "I was in a corner right behind a wall. I demanded him to drop his weapon. He had a handgun on him. I had mine pointed at him. He immediately dropped it."

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Dunaway offered no explanations but said something that stuck with the deputy.

" 'Forgive me, for I have sinned,' I believe is what he said."


Tampa forensic psychologist Robert M. Berland has examined 4,500 defendants in criminal cases, he said, and has recommended a finding of insanity only 25 times. Commuting Tuesday from work at the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, he didn't have records in hand.

"If I recommended insanity in that case, he must have been insane," the psychologist said.

Berland was one of two psychologists who found Dunaway incompetent to stand trial, prompting Circuit Judge John W. Booth to send the defendant for treatment at the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee.

Nine months later, Booth entered a judgment of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The victim's girlfriend, who spoke in court back then, recalls telling Dunaway never to forget what he had done to her and to Brower's family. She said Dunaway didn't say a word.

It's unclear how long he was hospitalized.

The victim's son said that for the first three years, the family was notified whenever Dunaway sought release. But then the notifications stopped.

"I thought he was put away for good," said Lt. Caruthers, "but obviously not."

The Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the case, was closed Tuesday. The court clerk's file was not immediately available. Judge Booth, now retired at 89, was recovering from a medical ailment, his wife said.

Dunaway, meanwhile, has been transferred from the Alachua County Jail to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful. He is a son of the late Vic Dunaway, a widely followed Florida fisherman who made a career writing about the outdoors before his death in May 2012.

The gun case against David Dunaway began last summer, after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received a tip that he was selling weapons, said Delano Reid, assistant special agent in charge for the Tampa field office.

"These are the types of people that should not have guns," he said.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at or (813) 226-3382.


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