tampabay.com

'Community got shot' along with deputy

On TV, David M. DeCarlo remembers the morning he got hit by two bullets. His shooter will be sentenced today.

By SHAWNTAYE HOPKINS
Published May 27, 2005


LECANTO - Sheriff's Sgt. David M. DeCarlo can clearly describe the morning two years ago when he was shot and left unable to walk while serving a search warrant in Citrus Springs. He also recalls the sensation of paralysis in his legs and the blood pooling at his shoulder.

At least twice Wednesday night, during a live airing of the Sheriff's 10-43 TV show on WYKE-Ch. 47, DeCarlo described that morning as a methodical operation.

"I think it was pretty much organized for everybody because we train so often for that scenario," he said.

He was shot twice - once in his left shoulder, once in his stomach - on May 30, 2003, while serving a search warrant at 6:20 a.m. to a man accused of selling drugs on four occasions to an undercover agent.

"I felt like not only did I get shot, my family got shot and the community got shot," he said on the show.

Larry Edwards Robbins, 27, has said he believed the law officers were there to rob him. He was shot three times. Robbins was found guilty on April 19 of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. He will be sentenced today. DeCarlo vividly explained to show host Ronda Hemminger Evans the details of the morning.

He had said the words hundreds of times: "Sheriff's Office, search warrant." But on this occasion, DeCarlo said, the phrase had barely left his tongue before he felt himself being shot.

"I see the amount of blood and I can't move my legs," he said. "I was scared and I was paralyzed."

DeCarlo's head was near Robbins' feet as both men lay at the entrance of the house. DeCarlo used his portable radio to report "officer down."

As officers arrived, DeCarlo asked that someone contact his wife and mother.

DeCarlo was flown to Tampa General Hospital, were he stayed for 63 days, undergoing multiple surgeries. He was then released to a rehabilitation center.

At the center, DeCarlo watched as paraplegics and quadriplegics struggled to move a finger or stand up. He realized that his injury wasn't the end.

DeCarlo's assignment with the Sheriff's Office these days is running an operation uncovering Internet crimes against children and teaching cybersafety to children and parents. He's made three arrests after posing on the Internet as a 13-year-old girl.

All the arrests were made outside Citrus County, he said.

In one case, DeCarlo received three $50 payments through Western Union from the defendant. The man had a birthday card for the supposed young girl on the night he was arrested. The card contained $200.

"We potentially saved three 13-year-old little girls from being victimized," he said.

DeCarlo offered several Internet tips to parents: Keep computers in a common area to monitor use, know what Web sites are being viewed and be sure children don't give out personal information.

Although DeCarlo has learned to walk again, he's certain the two bullets will remain lodged inside him forever. Doctors said removing them is too dangerous.

"Life changes in a matter of seconds," DeCarlo said, saying he'd never return to the quality of life he had before the shooting.

For more information about cybersafety classes, contact the Sheriff's Office at 726-4488.