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Man Slips Out of Handcuffs, Kills Officers

Shootings: Suspect in death of his son frees himself from restraints and goes on rampage. He also seizes hostage before taking his own life.

May 20, 1998| From Associated Press

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — A man questioned in the death of his son wriggled out of his handcuffs in a police car Tuesday, shot and killed two officers and then fatally shot a state trooper before taking a hostage at a gas station and later killing himself, authorities said.

The hostage, a female clerk at the station, had been released earlier.

The man was initially picked up for questioning in the shooting death of his 4-year-old son. Police said he had a criminal record dating back to 1986.

After the officers were killed, about 170 police officers surrounded the Shell station near this city about 50 miles north of Tampa. The standoff lasted nearly four hours.

When negotiations broke down, police shot tear gas into the station, fired off an explosive device behind the building and rushed inside, where they reported the man was dead of a self-inflicted shot to the head.

WFLA broadcast an interview with the man, who called the radio station and said he shot the two officers in the car after they refused to listen to his explanation of how his son died of a gunshot wound.

He said the boy's death was an accident.

"They started calling me a liar . . . and I was going to jail and prison," he said.

"I got one of the handcuffs off. I reached up front and got the pistol away from the officer that was driving. The other one jumped in the back seat trying to get it [the gun] away. I shot them both."

Police identified the two officers as Tampa homicide detectives Randy Bell, 44, and Ricky Childers, 46.

The suspect, who identified himself as Hank Carr, said he grabbed his rifle from the trunk of the officers' unmarked car, commandeered a truck and fled north along the highway.

"They [police] were shooting at me every underpass I went under," the man said.

After fleeing, police said, he fatally shot a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.

Neither the man nor police explained the circumstances surrounding the death of Trooper James Crooks, 23.

Police earlier identified the suspect as Joseph Lee Bennett, which he claimed was an alias. Police later confirmed he was Carr, 30, who had a record of burglary, grand larceny, possession of cocaine and resisting an officer with violence.

He told the radio station that his son's death was accidental, he did not want to go to prison or be electrocuted, and that he wanted to talk with his wife.

The suspect said he was wounded in the buttocks, and bleeding profusely.

He and his wife had told detectives the boy, identified by police as Joseph Bennett, was dragging a rifle along behind him when they yelled at him. The gun went off, the couple said, and the boy was shot in the head.

However at a news conference, police spokesman Steve Cole said the suspect changed his story during questioning at police headquarters.

"He said he had gotten the gun away from the child and it accidentally went off. He shot the child," Cole said.

Cole said the man agreed then to return to his home "with the detectives and walk through what happened." Police confiscated three rifles from the home.

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