|Text of Marion S.O. Press Release:|
OCALA, Fla. -- A Marion County Sheriff's deputy was shot and killed while responding to a call early this afternoon.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., Deputy Brian Litz responded to 9030 SW 104th Pl in order to conduct a well-being check at the home of 74-year-old Ivan Gotham at the behest of an out-of-state relative. Shortly after the arrival of Litz and other deputies, shots were fired that resulted in the death of both Deputy Litz and Mr. Gotham.
The incident is currently being investigated by the Major Crimes Unit of the Sheriff's Office, as well as investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This style of concurrent investigation is standard agency procedure in the case of an officer-involved shooting.
Marion deputy shot to death;
Gunfire erupts killing officer, elderly man
By The Ocala (Fla.) Star Banner
PINE RUN, Fla. -- A K-9 sheriff's deputy was shot and killed by a 74-year-old man Saturday when deputies went to the man's home to conduct a well-being check.
Deputy Brian Litz, 35, died in the attack. The elderly man that was being checked on, Ivan Gotham, 74, also died.
Sheriff's deputies and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is investigating the incident, released few details about the shooting at 9030 S.W. 104th Place.
Sheriff Ed Dean announced at a sorrowful press conference that the Sheriff's Office communication center received a call from Gotham's son asking the department to check on his father. He advised that his father did have a gun. He said he had not heard from his father in two days. The call, which reportedly was made at 12:07 p.m., was dispatched at 12:12 p.m.
Neighbors in the normally, quiet senior adult community of well-maintained manufactured homes, said Gotham moved into the southwest Marion County neighborhood about six months ago.
According to neighbors, a sheriff's deputy showed up at Gotham's home and within minutes of his arrival, made contact with Gotham. Gotham, who was inside his home, began arguing with the unidentified deputy. The deputy then ran to the end of the street. Within minutes, eyewitnesses said two other deputies arrived.
One of the deputies hid behind a post, while Litz walked up to Gotham's front window. Witnesses said they heard a loud pop, and Litz, who was standing at the window, fell to the ground. The witnesses said they heard Litz yell to his colleague that he was hit.
"At first, I heard two shots within five seconds, then I heard three or four shots after that," said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. "Shortly after those shots, we saw more deputies arrived on the scene."
The witnesses said shots were fired back and forth, and during the exchange, Gotham was killed.
Authorities would not discuss specifics or divulge any details about the shooting. They also would not say if Gotham turned the gun on himself or if one of their deputies shot him. They also would not say where Litz was shot. Litz, who died on the scene, reportedly was wearing his bulletproof vest.
"I can't comment on any specifics of the case because it's an on-going investigation," Dean said. But the somber sheriff did say that Litz "died doing what's right."
One neighbor, Mary Ann Bradshaw, said she was doing some paperwork in her home, when she noticed a deputy's car parked in front of Gotham's home. She said she heard a shot, and a deputy told her to stay inside and close the door because someone had a gun.
Gotham, who lived alone with his dog, was described by neighbors as "weird," "odd," and not the "easiest person to get along with." Several people who lived near his home said Gotham sometimes stood at the corner of Southwest 90 Avenue and Southwest 104th Place, just a few yards from his tan and white manufactured home, and "stared into space."
"He just gave you an uncomfortable feeling," said one woman.
Neighbors said Gotham would walk his dog, and during those walks, would sometimes peep into neighbors homes. They also said he recently was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.
Sources familiar with the investigation said Gotham was taken to The Centers early last month, but because the facility does not treat people who has Medicare, he was immediately assessed and sent to a hospital that accepts Medicare patients. Of the three surrounding facilities that treats Medicare patients - Hernando, Gainesville and Leesburg - Gotham was taken to the Hernando center for treatment. It was not known how long Gotham stayed in Hernando, or when he was released.
Neighbors said it wasn't unusual to have "one or two characters" in the neighborhood. A group who stood chatting in the front lawn of a home, said they once had a neighbor who would bang on pots and pans or anything he could get his hands on late at nights or early in the morning. He moved, however, about six months ago.
Deputies who served with Litz said he was a fun-loving man who went above and beyond the call of duty to help fellow deputies. An example of his dedication to his fellow deputies was shown on Friday when Litz came on duty at 6 a.m. and worked his regular shift, which included helping his fellow deputies look for Bonnie Lacy, 75, an Alzheimer's patient who was missing since Thursday night. On his way home, he heard deputies were looking for a burglar. He assisted them with that case, before going to another incident where deputies were in pursuit of someone. Litz did this even though his shift ended at 6 p.m. On Saturday, Litz was working his regular shift, when he was shot.
Litz had a wife, Cherie, and a son, Brian, 5, who will forever be apart of the "Sheriff's Office family," Dean said.
"That's what we do, we take care of our own, and now we got another son to raise and we're going to take him under our wings," said Dean.
Litz's wife, Cherie, is said to be devastated by the news of her husband's death.
Hired as a part time bailiff in October 1994, Litz became a deputy in June 1995. He was transferred to the K-9 Unit in October 2001. Before he was transferred to the K-9 Unit, Litz was a former Honor Guard and Field Force Team member. He also served as a Field Training Officer for the Patrol Division.
He and his dog, Justice, were practically inseparable.
Litz was given numerous Letters of Commendation from citizens and other law enforcement agencies, and was also awarded three Eagle Eye medals and a Medal of Commendation. Two years ago, Litz, along with K-9 Justice, had received their National K-9 Bomb Certification which certified them as experts in detecting explosives.
Within the last 50 plus years, only two Marion deputies, Deputy Bill Rutherford and Sheriff Edward J. Porter Jr., have died in the line of duty. Rutherford was killed in 1990 when he was hit by a drunk driver on State Road 200. In 1951, Porter was killed when a prisoner who he was transporting stabbed him with a ice pick before taking his gun and shooting him.
A little more than two years ago, detectives from the Major Crime Bureau mourned the death of one of their detectives, Robert "Bob" Curran, who died of natural causes while on vacation in North Carolina.