Off-duty Fla. officer fatally shot during robbery

 By Willoughby Mariano, Jim Leusner and Henry Pieron Curtis
The Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. An Orlando police officer found fatally shot this morning in Pine Hills was the victim of a robbery at a walk-up automated teller machine, police said.

A deputy working off-duty found veteran officer Alfred L. Gordon Sr., 52, inside his personal car shortly before 1 a.m. at the Bank of America branch at Silver Star and North Hiawassee roads.

"All the indications were that he was a victim of robbery and a homicide," said Capt. Paul Rooney, Gordon's boss at Orlando International Airport.

At a news conference this afternoon, a sheriff's investigator confirmed that authorities believe that Gordon might have just in the "wrong place at the wrong time" and was robbed. But Sgt. Allen Lee of the Orange County Sheriff's Office said officials are not closing off any avenue in their investigation.

"We need to come together as a community and pay attention to our values," Orlando Chief Mike McCoy said, noting how Gordon contributed to Orlando as a father, church deacon and public servant.

Lee also stressed it was a crime against county residents.

"Our victim was a police officer but more importantly he was a citizen of Orange County."

Lee said video from surveillance cameras was being reviewed, adding that investigators are looking for someone who made a bank drop shortly around the time of the murder.

Gordon lived in the area, Lee said.

Anyone with information can call CrimeLine anonymously and be eligible for a $20,000 reward. The number is 1-800-423-8477.

The death was initially reported as a possible suicide because his gun was found in plain sight, but investigators later determined Gordon was slain. Officials did not release information on possible suspects, and the Orange County Sheriff's Office investigation is continuing.

Gordon had been assigned to OIA for the past six years, and was a favorite with airport workers as well as the throngs of travelers who often were lost and needed help, Rooney said. He was patient with them, and personally walked them to the baggage carousel or other airport locations if they couldn't find their way alone.

"Al was a super-nice guy," Rooney said. "It's very tragic. Al really was a great guy, an easy going, caring guy. The travelers who were lost loved him."

Rooney said he and OPD senior chaplain Andrew Wade broke the news to Gordon's stunned ex-wife and son. He said the couple remained close.

Gordon was an excellent officer who loved music and dancing. He kept old jazz and blues albums at his home, Rooney said.

Gordon, an 18 1/2 year veteran of OPD, started with the department in 1989. He worked his last shift Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the airport. He was one of 72 officers assigned to the airport.

Officers from the critical incident stress debriefing team, who are specially trained in talking with grief-stricken victims and policemen, would be meeting with Gordon's co-workers after work today.

"It was not a good day for OPD," Rooney said. "More than anything, it shows the life and time we live in these days. You just never know. You have to always be on guard."

At the Bank of America this afternoon, the only sign of disruption was caution tape in the parking lot. There was no indication the location is a crime scene.

The bank lies in a commercial strip next to J-Mart and Champion Auto.

"The chief has said that we are going to assist with everything we can. We are going to assist in every manner, with every asset we have," Orlando police spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones said.

News of Gordon's murder spread quickly this morning in his old neighborhood.

"It's such a shock. My dear, dear friend," Gordon's former neighbor Vernal Johnson said and kissed the fingers of his right hand. "Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful man. My God."

Johnson moved to Pine Hills 20 years ago. A year later, the Gordons moved in across the street. Families on their cul-de-sac visited regularly, especially to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Even after Gordon moved out and bought a house for himself a mile away, the officer returned regularly most recently to celebrate the 70th birthday of Johnson's wife.

"Almighty God, have mercy on him," Johnson said. "To die like this is so sad."

Members of Gordon's family did not comment.

Copyright 2007 Orlando Sentinel

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