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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Autopsy: Deputy's killer was drunk
The report also finds Sgt. Ronald Harrison's killer had no drugs in his system.
By REBECCA CATALANELLO, Times Staff Writer
Published October 5, 2007
TAMPA - Michael A. Phillips died Aug. 15 just as investigators say his victim died hours before: a bullet pierced his lung.
But there's a glaring difference between the two endings, according to documents.
Phillips, 24, took the bullet through the chest after hours of negotiations with deputies.
Sgt. Ronald Harrison, 55, suffered two bullets from behind, apparently unaware he was about to be the target of a drunken man's rage.
Phillips' blood alcohol level was 0.18 when he died, according to an autopsy report released by the Hillsborough County medical examiner Thursday. That's more than twice the level at which Florida law presumes drivers impaired.
Phillips fatally shot Harrison, a 27-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, in what investigators described as a 1 a.m. ambush at Lumsden Road and Kings Avenue in Brandon. Harrison was behind the wheel of his cruiser.
Hours later, Phillips threatened to kill more law enforcement officers during a standoff with deputies at his Brandon home.
A SWAT sniper ended it.
Though early interviews indicated deputies believed Phillips might have been under the influence of drugs that morning, the autopsy shows no such evidence.
The only drug Phillips tested positive for was ethanol - alcohol.
"He made mention of some kind of narcotics that he was under," Detective Danny Johnson, the chief negotiator, told authorities only hours after the standoff with Phillips, according to transcripts.
Neighbors, friends and acquaintances all told deputies they believed Phillips commonly used drugs But there were other hints, too, included in the investigative case file released by the Sheriff's Office two weeks ago.
"I'm just paranoid," Johnson recalled Phillips telling him during negotiations, according to the transcripts. "I said, 'Well, why are you paranoid.' And he goes, 'Eh ... it's this stuff. I'm just paranoid.'"
A friend and an acquaintance of Phillips' told investigators early on that on Aug. 14, he spent part of the day drinking Grey Goose vodka they bought at a liquor store together.
Besides the alcohol, a medical examiner noted circular white indentations on Phillips' wrists, left by handcuffs.
Deputies placed his fallen body in the cuffs as part of standard procedure while they waited on paramedics to arrive and tend to him, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.
Though the case is closed, no one yet knows exactly why Phillips targeted Harrison that night. Documents show that even in negotiations with deputies before he died, he never mentioned shooting a law enforcement officer.