03/12/2007

Fla. man fatally shot during struggle with deputy

By Jill Tayloy
Palm Beach Post

The black truck raced around the corner onto Lil' Bit Lane around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, and Roland Taylor chuckled to himself from the Florida room of his parents' mobile home.

That guy is going nowhere fast, Taylor thought as the truck stopped just short of the dead end at the Indian River and a Martin County sheriff's deputy pulled in behind him, blue lights flashing.

Taylor said the next few minutes were like watching an episode of Cops as the driver and the deputy struggled and fought their way down the tiny street until they were out of sight. Taylor then heard two shots.

Gary James Vierow, 43, an unemployed painter with a troubled past, was dead on the ground with two shots to the torso from Deputy Brian Youngblood's .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun.

"It was surreal. It was crazy," Taylor said. "I said, 'This is like a TV show.' I was waiting for a cameraman to jump out. But they never did."

Youngblood made his way back to his patrol car and radioed in for the first time, sounding out of breath as he called for help.

"Shots fired. Subject down," he told dispatchers.

The radio room already was buzzing because Taylor's stepmother, Harriet, had called 911 to report the fight. She calmly told dispatchers a policeman was down on the ground. A shot and then another could be heard in the background.

"What do you mean there's a policeman down on the ground?" a clearly agitated dispatcher said, turning to the other radio operators and saying, "Do you have anybody checked out on Lil' Bit?"

Harriet Taylor then reported, "My husband just said the police shot the guy, so that's OK as far as I'm concerned."

Sheriff's officials still were piecing together the details Thursday, but preliminary information indicates Youngblood, who has been with the department for a year, was at the start of a shift and was trying to stop the truck for speeding when it pulled onto Lil' Bit in the Ocean Breeze community along Indian River Drive. It does not appear Youngblood, 39, called in the stop on his radio before the confrontation began.

Taylor said Youngblood was at the driver's door of his patrol car and Vierow was walking toward him, despite Youngblood's repeated orders to stop and get back in the truck.

Youngblood shoved Vierow against the truck and tried to pull his arms behind him for handcuffing, but Vierow pulled away and both men ended up on the ground, Taylor said. They struggled and sheriff's officials said Youngblood, who had nearly 10 years of experience with other departments, tried to subdue Vierow with his Taser.

It wasn't clear whether Youngblood was able to make contact with the device, but it didn't work and the fight continued.

"The officer was getting beat up pretty good," Taylor said. "The guy was on top of him, hitting him in the face. ... The deputy was outmatched."

Taylor said he was moving for a better vantage point when he heard the shots.

Sheriff's officials said Youngblood tried to resuscitate Vierow, but he was declared dead by other deputies who quickly swarmed the scene.

Youngblood, who was treated for his injuries and released from Martin Memorial Medical Center, was placed on administrative leave, which is typical in shooting cases. The state attorney's office will review the details of the shooting. Youngblood's personnel files show no serious disciplinary actions and plenty of commendations and awards.

Vierow had lived in the mobile home park a block from the shooting scene for about two years. Neighbors said they didn't know him well.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that Vierow had two arrests for driving under the influence, and court records indicate his parents had him declared "incapacitated" in 1999, saying he had a history of paranoid schizophrenia and was not able to take care of himself.

The parents' petition said Vierow had been hospitalized, was unable to work and was a danger to himself and others if he did not take his medication.

The guardianship was dissolved several months later after his parents reported he had completed treatment in two facilities and was able to manage his own affairs.

His mother, Helen Vierow, said Thursday she would wait for all the facts before making any comment on the shooting. She said she did not consider her son to be "troubled."

Staff researcher Angelica Cortez and staff writer Daphne Duret contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

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