Man fatally shot when he answers knock on door
The 61-year-old Plant City man didn't know his assailant, but robbery wasn't a motive, deputies said.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published January 10, 2006
Bruce White, 61, died Monday.
PLANT CITY - Bruce and Frances White were still sleeping early Monday when they heard a knock at the front door of their farm home, tucked behind more than 70 acres of strawberries in rural southern Hillsborough.
Bruce White, 61, went to see who it was. The clock had not yet struck 6 a.m.
Suddenly, gunshots broke the quiet.
Frances ran to the front door and found her husband bleeding in the foyer, according to sheriff's investigators. She called 911 and waited with White, long one of Hillsborough County's most consistent strawberry producers.
White died at Brandon Regional Hospital.
But before he passed, White gave his wife a vague description of the attacker. The shooter was a stranger, he told her. He was white. And he looked like he needed a shave.
Sheriff's detectives spent more than two hours combing the area around the White property. They interviewed neighbors and "anyone living even remotely close" to the home, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.
Nearby public schools - Durant High School, Turkey Creek and Mulrennan middle schools, Robinson and Nelson elementaries - went into a "modified lockdown" while detectives and deputies scoured the area, said school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.
Students and staffers were allowed onto campus, but they were not allowed to leave.
The security precautions were relaxed at 11:25 a.m., after sheriff's officials stopped canvassing the immediate area.
Monday evening, the shooter was still at large, and investigators had many unanswered questions. Detectives say robbery was not a motive, yet it doesn't appear that White knew his assailant.
White's home, 6345 Durant Road, sits at the south end of his more than 70-acre strawberry farm. The Property Appraiser's Office values the property at $1.2-million.
There are several trailers at the front end of the property for workers, and visitors to White's house have to travel a long dirt road to get to his front door.
Sheriff's deputies blocked reporters from visiting the home Monday. Frances White could not be reached by telephone.
The Whites' land includes a 2,700-square-foot home built in 1999 and a 3,700-square-foot home built in 1986, property records show.
The farm is south of where most Hillsborough strawberry growers plant their crops, but White was "very well connected," said Chip Hinton, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
White consistently ranked in the top third of local strawberry producers, and often was in the top 10 for average berry production.
"Everybody knew Bruce," said Hinton, who met White and his wife more than 20 years ago. When White's operation was smaller, White shared farm equipment with other farmers and helped bed their fields, Hinton said.
"He was one of our better growers. A good businessman."
White, who has a son and daughter, was also a good talker.
"When you went to visit him, you better count on having a couple, three hours," Hinton said with a chuckle. "He loved to talk about the political situation of the industry."
--Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified January 10, 2006, 01:51:15]
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