Fla. sheriff's deputy fatally shot in cruiser

By Michael Wells
The Tampa Tribune
Officer Down: Sgt. Ron Harrison
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BRANDON, Fla. Authorities have identified the man who they think fatally shot a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy this morning before he was killed in standoff with deputies.

After receiving a tip in the shooting death of Sgt. Ron Harrison, 55, deputies arrived at the home of Michael Allen Phillips, 24, and killed him after he opened fire on them, Sheriff David Gee said.

Larry Conner lives across the street from 1707 Village Court and said he was awakened by the sound of gunfire. "I was just hearing popping, like pow, pow, pow," he said

He started turning on the lights at his house until a deputy came to his back door and told him to turn them off.

"It sounded like a war zone," he said. "It was one of the scariest things I've ever been through."

Conner went from his living room to his bedroom seeking safety, and finally he went to hide in a closet with his cat, Roxy. Conner said he did not know the suspect well but occasionally checked out the family's garage sales.

Conner said the gunfire started as soon as sheriff's deputies arrived. "As soon as they pulled in, he started firing," he said, adding that the suspect was shooting from a second-floor window. "He had a death wish," Conner said. "He wasn't trying to get out of this alive."

Conner said the suspect was doing more shooting than the deputies were.

"It's very unfortunate that this officer lost his life," he said of Harrison.

Other neighbors said Phillips had caused some trouble in the neighborhood.

The suspect and his friends often sped up and down the streets of the neighborhood, said Wayne Thomas, who lives about two blocks away on Tradewinds Drive.

"He thought he was a bad-ass," Thomas said.

Don Zahn, 73, who also lives on Tradewinds, said he knew the people who lived in the house in passing and was often greeted by the family's Chihuahua on his neighborhood walk.

"It's a pretty quiet neighborhood," Zahn said. "We never had any problems. Lots of kids. … I never heard anyone screaming or hollering."

Added Zahn, "It's really sad. I hate to see a policeman or any young man lose his life."

Hours earlier, at a 5:15 a.m. news conference, Sheriff Gee made the somber announcement to reporters, "We lost one of our own."

Harrison, a Brandon resident and father of four, was shot just before 1 a.m. as he was driving north from the intersection of Kings Avenue and Lumsden Road.

Sheriff's officials gave this account of the incident:

Harrison was headed east on Lumsden, turning north onto Kings beside at least one other car, when a series of shots rang out, the driver of the other car told investigators.

Harrison's unmarked patrol car clipped the witness' vehicle and went out of control, Gee said. The deputy activated his emergency lights, crossed the median and crashed into a tree about a half-mile away.

"We believe he was trying to get himself to a hospital," Gee said. "It was the kind of severe wounds that would have [made him] quickly incapacitated."

Harrison was taken to Brandon Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Shortly after the crash, a Riverview woman called authorities to say her boyfriend told her he had just been involved in a shooting a police officer, Gee said.

She provided an address about a mile from the crash scene, at 1707 Village Court. Deputies arrived to find the man had barricaded himself inside.

The first deputy at the scene made contact with the suspect's mother, Regina Van Amburg, and a small child inside the residence, who then left the residence, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Phillips barricaded himself inside, and the sheriff's SWAT team was called. They attempted to negotiate with him, but during the negotiations he went to a window twice, firing shots with a large-caliber weapon at deputies outside. The bullets struck a deputy's vehicle and another vehicle parked at the home.

"I authorized deadly force be used," Gee said. "He was shot and killed by SWAT officers at the scene."

The shot that killed Phillips came through a window, Gee said.

The two deputies involved in the shooting, Deputies Shawn Dugan and Robert Carr, have been placed on administrative leave with pay pending review.

At 7 a.m., seven hours after the shooting, investigators were trying to learn details and were searching for other witnesses.

"It's unclear if [the shooter] was in a vehicle or if he ambushed [Harrison] from the roadside," Gee said. "Right now, it appears to be very complicated how this occurred."

Harrison had just completed operating a DUI checkpoint on Brandon Boulevard, Gee said.

"He was just getting ready to end duty," he said. "We don't know if he had encountered [the shooter] or if he was checking him out."

Harrison was not en route to another call and did not radio dispatchers once he had been shot, Gee said.

Morning motorists were asked to use alternate routes around the intersection. The portion of Lumsden between Kings and Parson Avenue was closed to traffic until shortly after 9 a.m. North and south traffic on Kings remained closed until late morning.

Also see:
  Fla. officer fatally shot checking suspicious license plate

  Gunman shoots undercover Fla. deputy in the head

Copyright 2007 The Tampa Tribune

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