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Clearwater man had 3 guns, 3 knives when shot by police

Published Dec. 25, 2012

CLEARWATER — Police had been called to Mark Wayne Bill's one-story cream-colored home at 2224 Glenmoor Road S once before Sunday. In February, authorities said, Bill called them to report a bicycle had been stolen from his garage.

On Sunday, the police again were called to the home of Bill, 56, a U.S. Army veteran and seaman who neighbors said worked in the merchant marine. A relative was concerned about a conversation he had with Bill, police said. The relative called police and asked them to check on Bill at his home in the Meadows subdivision off Belcher Road.

The second visit by police bore no resemblance to the innocuous February visit, according to information released Monday by Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts.

Just after 7 p.m. Sunday, Officers Kris Wise and Michael Beaver encountered Bill outside his home. Bill held a .223-caliber AR-15 rifle, according to Watts, and police later found a Mossberg 500 shotgun, a Colt .45 pistol and three knives. What happened next is still being checked out by police.

Wise and Beaver believe Bill shot at them with the AR-15, Watts said. They returned fire and hit Bill. He underwent surgery Sunday night at Bayfront Medical Center and remained in critical condition Monday, according to a hospital spokesman.

"According to the preliminary investigation, officers believed he (Bill) fired a shot; however, we are conducting forensic testing to confirm he fired the weapon," Watts wrote in a media alert Monday.

"Bill did point the AR-15 in a threatening manner multiple times at officers and disregarded lawful orders to drop his weapon," Watts wrote. "Two Clearwater officers fired at Bill because they were in fear for their safety and the safety of their fellow officers."

Wise and Beaver have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard policy in officer-involved shootings.

Neither officer has been involved in a shooting before, Watts said.

Police found more guns and ammunition inside Bill's home, according to Watts, as well as a grenade, which the Tampa Bay Bomb Squad determined Monday was inert.

Clearwater police also released information Monday about Bill's background, noting he is an Army veteran, is experienced with guns, and "has a criminal history with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Pennsylvania State Police, where he was charged with misdemeanor voluntary manslaughter in 1983," Watts wrote.

Watts did not clarify if Bill was convicted in the Pennsylvania incident. The Hillsborough incident was a 1983 escape charge, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, and the final adjudication is unknown. The Pinellas incident was a 2001 misdemeanor battery charge, which was later dropped.

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Bill's 15-year-old son was in the home during the shooting and was not harmed. He was released to his mother, Deborah Bill, who divorced Mark Bill in 2005, according to Pinellas County records. The court filings in that divorce span more than 10 years, from the initial divorce filing in August 2002 to a September judgment altering the child custody arrangement.

The divorce was initially finalized in June 2005. The Bills agreed the son would live with his mother and spend time with his father when he was ashore. According to that judgment, Mark Bill spent 50 days at a time out to sea, then about 50 days back home.

Mark Bill petitioned the court in December 2009 to have his child support payments reduced. He also asked for $19,000 in payments he felt he overpaid, according to court records. The court denied his request, but agreed to lower his child support payments, according to a judgment issued in September.

Bill's schedule had changed, according to the judgment, to spending 75 to 90 days at sea and then 80 to 85 days at home.

Deborah Bill declined to comment Monday when approached outside her ex-husband's home.

Neighbors Bill and Carol Caseber, who have lived on Glenmoor Road S for more than 30 years, described Bill, their neighbor for the last year and a half, as a quiet, reserved, polite man who kept a tidy garage.

The Casebers were on their way out to a family dinner Sunday evening when they heard pops coming from across the street. Bill Caseber thought it was firecrackers, but his wife recognized the sound as gunfire.

Soon, Carol Caseber heard another noise — sirens.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com.