Fla. Deputy Kills Man After Struggle With Taser Following Attack on Parents
By Pedro Ruz Gutierrez and Carol Scott, The Orlando Sentinel
A man on probation who vowed to a friend after an earlier arrest that he would never again be stunned with a Taser was shot and killed Friday by an Orange County, Fla. deputy sheriff trying to break up a fight.
Minutes after Richard X. Hunter, 24, attacked his parents with a knife and a flower vase Friday morning, Deputy Chris Wood confronted Hunter and chased him to a neighbor's yard in the Quail Ridge subdivision.
Sheriff's officials said Wood, 38, used pepper spray on Hunter and then fired his Taser stun gun, but he missed and Hunter snatched the device from him.
"It was a hand-to-hand," said Jim Solomons, a Sheriff's Office spokesman. "He sprayed him and that didn't have any effect, and the suspect continued to fight."
Sherrie Dimarsico, a neighbor who said she was "like a sister" to Hunter, said he must have grabbed the weapon because of an arrest in May in which he was wounded by a Taser. She said Hunter told her after that arrest that he could not handle being hit by a Taser again.
"He still had holes in his body from it," she said. "He said: 'I can't go through that again. I can't take it.' "
Dimarsico said Hunter was a "good person" in the grips of a mental illness.
"He was telling his mother all [Thursday] night long that he was hearing voices," she said.
Officer hurt in struggle
Hunter beat Wood with the Taser, leaving a gash above the deputy's temple.
"He got control of the Taser, and after Chris [Wood] was struck on the face and head, he [the deputy] discharged his weapon," Solomons said.
Solomons said Wood feared Hunter would shock him with the Taser, which discharges an incapacitating electric blow. That's when Wood fired his handgun several times, striking Hunter.
Before the attack on his parents in the hours leading up to the fatal encounter with Wood, Solomons said, Hunter had seemed agitated and was seen "pacing the floor."
About 7:30 a.m., one of his parents dialed 911.
"They [the parents] did say there was nothing that precipitated the attack," Solomons said. "There were no signs. . . . He just kind of went off."
Father, mother injured
Solomons said Hunter's father, Korvin Hunter, 58, suffered a stab wound on his foot. Hunter's mother, Barbara Hunter, 54, was hit with a flower vase during a fight with their son.
Both parents were taken to Health Central Ocoee, where Korvin Hunter was treated in the emergency room Friday evening. His wife was released earlier in the day. Richard Hunter was pronounced dead at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
"Mom and Dad are upstanding people," said Robert Branson, an attorney representing the Hunters in federal bankruptcy court. "She's a registered nurse, and he's out on disability. They are nice, middle-class people."
Court records show the Hunters have filed for bankruptcy three times since 2003.
At least 8 calls to home
Records show deputies have gone to the Hunter home in the 5400 block of Blue Tick Drive in Pine Hills at least eight times since 2000 for a variety of incidents, including reports of a car crash, an aggravated assault and unspecified 911 calls.
Neighbors called the area in Pine Hills safe and close-knit, saying Friday morning's incident was a surprise.
"I let [Hunter] watch my kids," said Mike Collins, who lives two houses from Hunter's parents.
Laquinda Phillips, who lives with Dimarsico in the neighborhood, said she had tried to persuade Hunter to take medication for his mental state, which she described as "schizophrenic or bipolar."
"I was trying to get him to take it, but he wouldn't," she said.
Taser used before
On May 17, Richard Hunter was arrested on charges he beat a deputy, resisted arrest with violence and was under the influence of alcohol after an early morning traffic stop near his parents' home.
Deputy Dal Newland discharged his Taser on Hunter when Hunter ran away. One of the device's prongs hit Hunter in the back, but the other missed. According to Newland's report, Hunter later told him: "If I had a gun, I would water you down, don't let me see you out in the street, dawg."
Last month, Hunter pleaded guilty to resisting an officer with violence in that case, and prosecutors dismissed the battery charge. Orange Circuit Judge Frederick Lauten withheld adjudication and placed Hunter on two years of supervised probation. On Oct. 5, Hunter pleaded no contest to his DUI charge stemming from the same incident.
Suspect had record
Records show Hunter has a criminal record dating to 1996, when as a 16-year-old Winter Park High School student he was arrested on charges of possession of crack cocaine. He pleaded guilty and was given three years' probation.
In 1998, he was arrested by Orlando police on burglary charges, but they were later dropped.
Wood has been placed on administrative leave, pending a review of the shooting by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and an internal investigation by his agency. Wood has had five complaints or incidents recorded by the Sheriff's Office Professional Standards Division.
The most-serious violation involved a woman who reported that nearly $500 was missing after Wood assisted in a May 1999 arrest on traffic charges.
An investigation found that "Wood failed to follow established agency policy regarding the handling of property belonging to arrested suspects." He received a written reprimand for the incident.
2nd fatal shooting in '04
Friday's incident is the second fatal shooting this year by an Orange County deputy.
A high-speed car chase by Orange County deputy sheriffs in January led to the fatal shooting of Marvin Williams, 26, who was unarmed and was mistaken for a murder suspect.
Deputy Sheriff Richard Mankewich, who was told Williams matched the description of a murder suspect, was cleared of wrongdoing by an Orange County grand jury and an internal investigation.