June 12, 2003
Pasco Deputy Down
Officer Down: Lt. Charles "BO" Harrison - [Dade City, Florida]
Respected Pasco Deputy Killed
June 2, 2003
Memo: Reporters Tim Bugansky and Candace Samolinski and researcher Glorianna Felix contributed to this report. Reporter Julia Ferrante can be reached at (813) 948-4220.
SEARCH LAUNCHED FOR SHOOTER
LACOOCHEE - Charles "Bo" Harrison would have been sitting in the left corner at the front of the church Sunday morning, where the trustees and deacons sit.
He would have stood and sung with the male chorus and undoubtedly let out an infectious, knee-slapping laugh during the 11 a.m. service he regularly attended after his night shift as a lieutenant in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
But Harrison's spot was empty at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Dade City, leaving his church community, family, neighbors and fellow deputies mourning the loss of one of their own.
Harrison, Pasco County's highest-ranking black deputy and a 31-year veteran of the force, was shot and killed during surveillance duty about 2 a.m. Sunday. The former Army Ranger and Vietnam veteran was slated to retire this month, sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said.
Harrison is the first Pasco sheriff's deputy to be shot and killed in the line of duty since 1922.
His daughter Michelle, 20, said Harrison was committed to his three children, four grandchildren and the career he loved.
"I can't be too sad because he lived life, and he did his job," she said. "He loved us a lot. He worked 12-hour shifts and he still found time for us and fishing."
Harrison was parked in the Farm Basket parking lot at 20810 U.S. 301 when several deputies on patrol across the street at Rumors nightclub heard shots fired, Doll said. The deputies found Harrison sitting in his car, not breathing. One deputy administered CPR, thinking Harrison had a heart attack. But when paramedics removed Harrison's shirt, they found a bullet wound in his back. He was pronounced dead at Dade City Hospital.
Pasco and Hernando county sheriff's investigators and Florida Highway Patrol initiated a countywide manhunt, knocking on doors in neighborhoods surrounding the nightclub, taking names and searching cars at U.S. 301 and Cummer Road. U.S. 301 was closed at U.S. 98 until about 5 p.m. while deputies investigated the crime scene.
The sheriff's office used its reverse 911 alert system to ask anyone with information about the shooting to come forward. Investigators still were searching for suspects Sunday night.
Deputies routinely did surveillance at Rumors, the scene of one slaying and frequent trouble in recent years, Doll said. Investigators would not comment on a possible motive for the shooting.
Faithful Family Man
Those who knew Harrison remembered him as a devout Christian and family man who gained the trust of the community and fellow deputies through kindness, compassion and hard work.
Michelle Harrison said her father shared custody of Michelle, her sister, LaSandra and brother, Charles Jr. with his ex-wife, Lydia, who lives in Tampa. He coached Little League and mentored many, including Darren Hambrick, who went on to play football for the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns.
Field Training Officer Robert Miller, who ate lunch Saturday with Harrison, said his friend was as passionate about his work as his personal life.
"He was a great guy. He was a good cop," Miller said. "He got along well with the public, and the guys who worked with him respected him."
Harrison planned to travel this summer, and a group of fellow deputies bought him a global positioning system to help him find his way, Miller said. But Harrison was not looking forward to retirement. He would leave the force because of the county's mandatory retirement program and planned to return to work as a part-time court bailiff.
"He told me he wasn't ready to retire," said Willie Broner, who grew up with Harrison and called him a best friend. Broner, athletic director at Pasco High School, was catcher on the championship Mickens High School baseball team when Harrison was pitcher. Both were football quarterbacks and joined the Army in succession.
"He was my best friend. He is a great loss to the community and his family," Broner said.
Born Feb. 15, 1946, Harrison graduated from Mickens High in 1965. He became an Army Ranger and served two years in Vietnam as a paratrooper before Sheriff Basil Gaines in 1972 asked Harrison to become one of Pasco's first minority deputies.
Harrison told The Tampa Tribune during an interview in 2001 he was hesitant to go into law enforcement but later used his experiences to encourage other minorities to do the same.
He spent most of his career in east Pasco. He started as a jailer, rising to the rank of warden before requesting a transfer to patrol. "Patrol is my love," he told the Tribune.
He met resistance at first because of his race.
"I was asked to leave homes a number of times," he said. "But I had to stand my ground. If I hadn't, I might as well have turned in my badge."
"He worked hard. He was promoted up through the ranks on merit and hard work," said Lt. Richard Moore, who worked with Harrison for 25 years. "He'd go out of his way to make friends. He had a laugh about him that once you heard it, you wouldn't forget it."
Harrison passed up chances to leave patrol to spend more time in the community. "Always the quarterback" on the Police Athletic League football team, he kept his athletic build despite a voracious appetite and a passion for cooking dishes including his specialty, peach cobbler.
"He loved to eat. That man could put away some food," fellow Lt. Joe Frontz said.
Harrison lived in Dade City, in a one-story blue house with black shutters and a string of lights left over from Christmas. Tall oak trees hung over the roof and a small motorboat on a trailer in the yard lay waiting for the fishing trips he planned.
The Rev. Clyde Carter, an associate minister at St. Joseph's, described Harrison as "kind and loving and a Christian-hearted person who was devoted to helping people."
"He was a man that stood for what was right," Carter said.
Toby Roberts, who lived across the street from Harrison, said the lieutenant, whom he called "Mr. Bo," always was willing to lend a hand.
"That man didn't do anything to anybody but try to help you," Roberts said.
Deputies remained hopeful Sunday that they would find Harrison's killer."Everybody knew Bo Harrison," Frontz said. "There is no doubt that somebody in the community will come forward."
The last time a Pasco deputy was killed in the line of duty was during Prohibition, Capt. Alan Weinstein said. Deputy A.F. Crenshaw and a federal revenue agent were ambushed during a raid on a moonshine distillery at the Sturkey Ranch on River Road east of Dade City.
A sheriff's constable, an elected patrolman, was shot and killed on the job in the 1940s, Weinstein said. A deputy was killed in 2001 in a traffic accident on the way home from work, Doll said. And veteran Sgt. Charlie Calhoun died of a heart attack while on vacation last month.
"These deputies do their jobs knowing this is always a possibility," Doll said. "Domestic violence, traffic stops can take a turn and people can take random shots at a deputy. This is nothing new in law enforcement. This is new for us."
Anyone with information about Harrison's death should call the sheriff's office at 1-800-854-2862.
Cutline: Tribune map
(MAP) (C) Officer killed
Tribune file photo by CHRISTINE DeLESSIO (2001)
(C) Charles "Bo" Harrison was asked by then-Pasco County Sheriff Basil Gaines in 1972 to become one of the county's first minority deputies.
WFLA-TV photo from Eagle 8 by PETER MASA
(C) Charles Harrison was shot and killed in his cruiser about 2 a.m. Sunday. His car, which was parked in the Farm Basket parking lot at 20810 U.S. 301, has its doors open here.
Tribune file photo by CHRISTINE DeLESSIO (2001)
(C) Fellow deputies remembered Harrison's sense of humor. Lt. Richard Moore said, "He had a laugh about him that once you heard it, you wouldn't forget it."
"He was my best friend. He is a great loss to the community and his family." (C) WILLIE BRONER
Grew up with Harrison
"Everybody knew Bo Harrison. There is no doubt that somebody in the community will come forward." (C) LT. JOE FRONTZ
On the search for the killer
"He worked hard. He was promoted up through the ranks on merit and hard work." (C) LT. RICHARD MOORE
Comrade for 25 years