SAFETY HARBOR — A 35-year-old Safety Harbor man died at a Tampa hospital early Saturday morning after he was shot by Pinellas County deputies who say they were in fear for their lives when he pointed a shotgun at them.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies went to a residence on Flanders Way in Safety Harbor about 2:27 a.m. Aug. 3 for a welfare check after receiving a call from an unidentified person in Illinois, who said his friend had called and told him he had shot his mother and didn’t want to go to jail.
When deputies arrived at the home, they found Susan Clark, 64, dead inside from an apparent gunshot wound.
During a media briefing near the scene, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Susan Clark was found on the floor, dead from a shotgun wound and wrapped in blankets.
No one else was at the residence and deputies began to search for Clark’s son, John Clark, 35.
Gualtieri said detectives with the Robbery and Homicide Unit responded to the scene, as did members of the Violent Offenders Unit and others. They were having a briefing near the home, about 4:20 a.m., when John Clark was spotted driving his mother’s car, a blue 2012 Volkswagen Eos, slowly traveling southbound on Beacon Place Drive, near the crime scene.
Deputies activated their emergency lights and sirens and tried to stop the Volkswagen, but Clark refused to stop and turned westbound onto Baldwin Avenue from Beacon Place Drive, towards the crime scene.
Gualtieri said deputies and detectives standing in the roadway yelled at Clark, telling him to stop, but the man kept driving slowly through the crime scene near Flanders Way.
Deputies came up to the vehicle on the passenger side of the Volkswagen, and continued to order him to stop, Gualtieri said. They noticed that he had a shotgun on his lap.
“They were telling him drop the gun, stop the car, drop the gun, stop the car, but he did neither,” Gualtieri said.
The sheriff said at one point, Clark took the 12-gauge shotgun from between his legs and pointed it at the passenger side of the car where deputies were standing, at which time deputies fired at the man.
After he was shot, Clark was removed from the vehicle and given first aid until paramedics arrived. He was then taken to St. Joseph's Hospital where he died about 5:10 a.m.
Gualtieri identified the three deputies who fired at Clark as Brennen Wede, 26, a five-year employee of the sheriff’s office, Brian Williams, 37, who has been with the sheriff’s office nearly 14 years, and Chris Amatruda, 33, a three-year employee.
Williams, Wede and Amatruda were placed on paid administrative leave, as is routine in shooting cases.
Gualtieri said detectives were continuing their investigation. He provided information known as of Saturday morning, including that Clark had no evident criminal history. He said a sister who lives in Texas said Clark had some minor offenses when he was younger. She also told detectives, he had a drug problem and suffered from mental illness.
His mother may have been trying to get him to get help.
Gualtieri said similar scenarios “play out time and time again.”
“You have an adult male that has mental health issues, that has drug problems,” he said, adding that he didn’t know for sure that was involved in the Aug. 3 shooting. “But it’s pointing in that direction.”
He said sometimes when people try to push someone into getting help and getting treatment, “then something happens, and they snap and you end up with this type of situation. So this is what it looks like, but again, that’s preliminary.”
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.