ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff’s deputy fatally shot his wife, granddaughter and daughter before he radioed dispatchers to say he’d hurt his family early Wednesday, then killed himself in front of fellow deputies near a high school, authorities said.
The events unfolded before students had arrived for school in Plant City, a rural community east of Tampa.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister identified the deputy as 58-year-old Terry Strawn, who in 2009 was named “Officer of the Year.”
“There was no indication, no behavior issues,” Chronister said. “Nothing that would lead any employee to believe this employee was struggling.”
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Strawn went on the department’s main radio channel just before 7 a.m. Wednesday to say he had harmed his family. The deputy mentioned financial and health problems and said he was going to kill himself near the local high school, the sheriff said.
“Throughout the entire dialogue on the radio, the dispatchers did a wonderful job of trying to convince him that suicide is not the answer,” Chronister said.
The sheriff said three other deputies quickly located Strawn and they made “every attempt possible to try to convince this deputy sheriff that there was a different way, that there was a different solution.”
“Unfortunately, the deputy took his own life on scene in front of the other deputies,” Chronister said.
Strawn used his service revolver in each of the shootings.
The deputy had ties to the sheriff’s office dating to 1991, when he was hired as a jail deputy. He became a patrol officer a few years later.
According to local media archives, he and another deputy shot and killed a man in the line of duty in 2004. The man pointed a metal and plastic tool at the officers as they tried to arrest him during a domestic violence call. Fearing the object was a gun, the deputies fired their weapons.
Chronister said he was briefly suspended in 1998 for defacing sheriff’s office property and was disciplined in 2016 for two traffic crashes.
Retired from the office in 2017, he then returned to duty as a contracted school safety officer, a position that some schools in Florida created after the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre last February in South Florida.
Chronister said the agency had recently told Strawn he would be hired full-time as a school officer.
“He had done a wonderful job. Phenomenal,” the sheriff said. “When we hired him back, he went through an extensive background and psychological testing.”
Strawn took the life of his 54-year-old wife, his 32-year-old daughter and his 6-year-old granddaughter.
He was a safety officer at an elementary school in another suburb of Tampa that his granddaughter attended.
This is the second time a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy was involved in a murder-suicide in recent months. On Sept. 24, a deputy killed his wife and then himself while the couple’s four children were at home.