Fla. Deputy Murders Family, then Radios in Crime Before Killing Himself in Front of Officers
A Florida sheriff’s deputy radioed his department early Wednesday morning to report he’d just killed three family members before he killed himself in front of three fellow deputies who pleaded with him not to do it, PEOPLE confirms.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Strawn, 58, fatally shot his wife, Theresa Strawn, 54, and their granddaughter, Londyn Strawn, 6, at the Plant City home he shared with them before driving to daughter Courtney Strawn’s house and shooting her to death, Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a press conference Wednesday.
“Our deputy, at approximately 6:42 this morning, came on air — came on the communications channel — and advised that he had emergency traffic,” he said. “He went on to say he had killed his wife and granddaughter. He said that he also went over to his daughter’s house and killed his daughter.”
Throughout the ordeal, dispatchers tried everything they could “to try and convince him that suicide was not the answer,” the sheriff said.
A supervisor pleaded with him on the radio, as did deputies who arrived near the scene, Chronister said.
“Three of the deputies did their best … to do everything possible to make him realize that suicide was not the answer,” he said.
Despite their pleas, Strawn fatally shot himself in front of them, he said.
“I wanted to say how saddened and disheartened I am by the actions of this deputy and the senseless loss of these innocent lives,” Chronister told reporters.
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Hired in 1991, Strawn retired in 2017 but was hired back this year on a temporary basis as a school resource officer at Valrico Elementary School, where his granddaughter went to school, he said.
Chronister said Strawn had heretofore been “an exemplary employee” who displayed no signs of any behavioral problems. He was named Deputy of the Year in 2009, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Additionally, Strawn had just learned that the department was going to hire him as a full-time employee, he said. “He was extremely grateful. He indicated that Christmas came early,” the sheriff said.
During his radio transmission, Strawn said he was “struggling with some health and financial issues,” Chronister said. “He indicated that he was losing everything and at one point said that he had to go — he appreciated all the help but he had to go be with his family.”
Strawn wife and granddaughter succumbed to their injuries at the scene, he said.
His daughter died at her home where she was shot.
All three died of upper body trauma from a gunshot wound, Chronister said.
Chronister urged anyone with suicidal thoughts to ask for help no matter what.
“We have to change the culture,” Chronister said, CNN reported. “We have to make sure everyone knows that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness to say, ‘Listen, I’m having a difficult time, I’m having a hard time, I need some help.'”
Suicide Prevention: What to Know
Experts say some common warning signs of suicide include discussing a desire to die or feeling anxious or hopeless, like a burden, or trapped or in pain; withdrawing from others; extreme mood swings, including anger and recklessness; and abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little).
Many suicides have multiple causes and are not triggered by one event, according to experts, who underline that suicidal crises can be overcome with help. Where mental illness is a factor, it can be treated.
Reaching out to those in need is a simple and effective preventative measure, experts say.