Authorities had been told the man had a gun and threatened to use it on deputies if they tried to stop him.
By CHRIS TISCH
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2002
LARGO -- Pinellas sheriff's deputies shot and killed a suicidal man Monday night after he threatened to shoot deputies and pointed a loaded handgun at his girlfriend, sheriff's officials said.
Two deputies fired six shots at Terry L. Lappin, 58, who had pulled a .22-caliber handgun from his front pocket. Lappin, who was outside his mobile home, fell to the street and died. Sheriff's officials said they weren't certain how many times he was hit.
The deputies who shot him, John Syers and Tom Singleton, were placed on routine administrative leave with pay. Sheriff's detectives, internal affairs investigators and the State Attorney's Office were investigating the shooting, which also is routine.
Singleton, 29, has been with the Sheriff's Office for more than three years. Syers, who turns 31 this week, has been with the agency more than two years. Neither has any record of being disciplined in the past, sheriff's spokesman Cal Dennie said.
Lappin's girlfriend, Dorothy L. Chase, 50, called 911 from a neighbor's home about 9:20 p.m. to report that Lappin threatened suicide and had a gun to his head, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.
"He also said that if anyone tried to stop him, he would also shoot a law enforcement officer," she said.
Deputies swarmed into the Starlight Mobile Home Park, 11630 Hamlin Blvd., within three minutes. But Lappin had left.
Deputies met with Chase and removed guns Lappin kept in his home. Deputies also got a description of the maroon Nissan pickup truck he was driving and his clothing. They fanned out in search of him.
Chase told deputies that Lappin was on medication but hadn't been taking his pills. He also had been drinking that night, she told them.
Deputies knew of Lappin. Twice before they had been summoned to his home because he was threatening suicide. Both times he was taken into custody for treatment.
Lappin returned, then left without deputies seeing him. At some point, Chase wound up in the truck with him, Dennie said.
Deputies saw him return a second time and followed him. He parked in front of his home about 11:25 p.m. Singleton and Syers took cover, one behind a van, the other tucked behind the corner of a mobile home.
Lappin then pulled the .22-caliber handgun from his pocket. The gun was loaded with eight rounds. Deputies told him to drop the gun, but he pointed it at Chase, Dennie said.
Singleton shot four times. Syers shot twice. One shot went into a nearby mobile home, but the occupants were not hit.
Lappin, who did not shoot, was pronounced dead in the street. A yellow tarp was placed on his body as deputies investigated.
Chase was taken by ambulance to Suncoast Hospital after complaining of chest pains.
Neighbors said Lappin and Chase lived together on and off in the park.
"They seemed like real nice people," said neighbor Jan Keziah.
Keziah said she saw Lappin from time to time at a local bar. He told her he was bipolar, she said.
Though he and Chase had broken up before, Keziah said they got back together recently. Chase could not be reached Tuesday.
"From the way he talked, he had a lot of stuff he wanted to do," Keziah said. "He had a lot of stuff he wanted to do with her."
Police reports indicate Lappin was troubled.
Chase summoned deputies to the park Aug. 3, saying he had been drinking and threatening suicide. She said Lappin had been depressed for several months and had spun into a darker mood recently.
He had gone to the beach and was harassing beachgoers, even kicking a car. He also had pressed a loaded handgun to his head and told her: "I'll just blow myself away."
The responding deputy noted Lappin was incoherent. Lappin told the deputy he had been depressed for more than a year after being involved in an auto accident. After the deputy coaxed Lappin out his home, he was taken to the hospital for evaluation and offered mental health counseling.
Three months later, Lappin downed a bottle of vodka, called 911 and said he wanted "to end it all," reports state. Deputies found broken glass on the kitchen floor and Lappin told them he thought of slicing his wrists. He also said he thought of shooting himself, but did not like the thought of leaving a mess in the home, reports state.
Again, he was taken to the hospital for treatment.