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Police shoot man after family fight

The man, in critical condition late Saturday, had been arguing with his brother and was reaching for a gun, officers say.

By AMY HERDY and JOHN BALZ
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 24, 2002


TAMPA -- A Tampa police officer shot and wounded a man Saturday night after a violent feud involving the man and his brother.

Frank Fonte was listed in critical condition late Saturday at Tampa General Hospital, authorities said.

Police said the events began with a family dispute.

Nelson Fonte, 48, came to visit his brother, Frank, and their parents at 3916 Watrous Ave. about 8:30 p.m.

Frank Fonte, for reasons that remained unclear as of Saturday night, threatened to stab his brother with a knife and chased him outside to his car, where he banged on the windshield, authorities said.

Joe Fonte, the father, told police that Frank Fonte was trying to kill the family, said Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin.

As Nelson Fonte drove away, his brother pursued him in another car through the neighborhood, ramming the rear of Nelson's car. During the chase, Frank and Nelson's parents called police.

Frank Fonte returned home and got a handgun from his father's bedroom, police said. When Lt. Troy Neal, a 13-year veteran, arrived at the house, he found Frank Fonte outside with the gun tucked into the back of his trousers' waistband, authorities said.

Durkin said that as Frank Fonte reached for the gun, Neal yelled for him to stop. When Fonte ignored the order and grabbed the gun, Neal, 34, fired several times, Durkin said. Fonte was hit three times, in the side, shoulder and wrist, authorities said.

An emergency rescue team took Frank Fonte to Tampa General Hospital. He had not been charged late Saturday.

Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies had arrested him five times before on battery and theft charges, records state.

"It's a tough situation all the way around," said police Chief Bennie Holder, who came to the scene.

"I feel for the parents."

Joe Fonte, standing outside the house, said: "We're still just trying to figure it all out."

Neal was placed on administrative leave with pay, a routine step in shooting cases.

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