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Tape reveals story of suicide during 911 call

When Thomas Straight called authorities to report the death, he told them it was a suicide. He later changed his story and described a set of accidental circumstances.

By CARY DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- His longtime friend and roommate was dead from a shotgun blast to the head.

At 3:17 a.m. on May 5, minutes after the shooting, Thomas Straight called 911 to report a suicide.

"The guy that lives with me shot himself and he's dead," Straight told a Pasco County Sheriff's Office dispatcher, according to a tape of the 911 call obtained by the Times. (See transcript, Page 8.)

For three minutes, a distraught Straight answered dispatchers' questions, telling them through sobs that he had been up all night trying to persuade David Charles Hood to surrender the 12-gauge shotgun.

What happened? dispatchers asked.

"Well, he's been, you know, playing around like shooting himself and I was trying to, you know, prevent him . . . trying to talk to him, you know, trying to get him, you know, to put up the gun and stuff."

Straight, a psychological specialist at Zephyrhills Correctional Institute, told dispatchers that his exhaustive attempts to talk Hood, 36, out of suicide had failed in the end.

"He blew his head off," Straight said.

But 12 hours after the shooting, Straight, 60, was arrested on manslaughter charges. The Sheriff's Office said he changed his story and admitted shooting Hood.

According to reports, Straight told detectives that he persuaded Hood to take the shotgun out of his mouth and surrender the weapon. Straight said Hood assured him the gun's chamber was empty. But Straight apparently had doubts, so Hood dared him to pull the trigger, the Sheriff's Office said.

With the weapon pointed at Hood's head, Straight told detectives, he fired the weapon.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Jon Powers said it took hours for Straight to admit shooting Hood because "He was in a highly emotional state given what had just happened."

Straight of 37432 Northside Drive has not responded to repeated requests for interviews. After his arrest, the state Department of Corrections placed Straight on paid leave. He remains free on $50,000 bail.

Neighbors said Straight was a father figure for Hood. Straight's feelings for Hood are apparent in the 911 call.

"He's like a son to me," Straight told dispatchers, according to the tape.

Neighbors said Hood referred to Straight as "Dad." The two lived together for 18 years, and Hood told neighbors that Straight had adopted him.

Hood, according to court records, had been arrested twice last year on charges that he battered Straight.

When dispatchers asked why Hood had killed himself, Straight responded: "He's drunk and he's been discouraged. He thinks people are after him, you know, and all this. I've been trying to talk, you know, deal with him all night."

Asked if he had touched the gun, Straight did not give dispatchers a direct answer.

"I've, well, when we were, you know, trying to keep him from shooting himself," he told dispatchers, his voice trailing off.

Powers wouldn't comment on whether, given that Straight has changed his story once, detectives have any doubts now about how Hood died.

The 911 tape

Thomas Straight calls 911 at 3:17 a.m., May 5:

Dispatcher: "911. You need police, fire or ambulance?"

Straight: "Yeah, need ambulance and police."

Dispatcher: "What's the problem?"

Straight: "Uh, the fellow that lives with me just shot himself with a shotgun."

Dispatcher: "Shot himself?"

Straight: "Yes."

Dispatcher: "Where is he located?"

Straight: "He's uh, it's 37 "

Dispatcher: "You're at his house right now?"

Straight: "He's here with me. He's at my house."

Dispatcher: "Okay. Is he conscious?"

Straight: "No."

Dispatcher: "Is he breathing?"

Straight: "He's dead."

Dispatcher: "Did you witness him do it?"

Straight: "Yes."

Dispatcher: "Stay on the line. I'm going to put you through to the Sheriff's Office, okay?"

Pause Sheriff's Office dispatcher comes on line.

Dispatcher: "May I help you?"

Straight: "Yes. The guy that lives with me shot himself and he's dead."

Dispatcher: "Okay, the guy you live with?"

Straight: "Yes, uh huh."

Dispatcher: "Okay, what's his, and you're at 37 (inaudible)?"

Pause

Dispatcher: "How long ago did he just shoot himself?"

Straight: "Just a couple of minutes."

Dispatcher: "Okay, where did he shoot himself? Where's he shot?"

Straight: "The shotgun."

Dispatcher: "Okay, where is the where is the actual wound?"

Straight: "In his head. He blew his head off?"

Dispatcher: "Okay. Are you absolutely positively sure that he's deceased?"

Straight's answer is inaudible.

Dispatcher: "Okay, how old was he, sir?"

Straight: "Thirty-seven. He's like a son to me."

Dispatcher: "Okay. Do you have any reason why he would do this?"

Straight: "He's drunk and he's been discouraged. He thinks people are after him, you know, and all this. I've been trying to talk, you know, deal with him all night, trying to "

Pause

Dispatcher: "What exactly happened, sir?"

Straight: "Well, he's been, you know, playing around like shooting himself and I was trying to, you know, prevent him trying to talk to him, you know, trying to get him, you know, to put up the gun and stuff."

Dispatcher: "Uh huh. What is his name?"

Straight: "David Hood."

Pause

Dispatcher: "Sir, we don't want you to touch anything on the, in the scene, okay?"

Straight: "Okay."

Dispatcher: "Where is the gun? Is it just where it, right by his side, or?"

Straight: "It's on the floor. I'm not sure."

Dispatcher: "Okay. I don't want you to touch the gun, okay?"

Straight: "Yeah."

Dispatcher: "Have you touched it yet?"

Straight: "I've, well, when we were, you know, trying to keep him from shooting himself."

Dispatcher: "Well, don't disturb the scene at all, okay. Just keep it like it is. Is there anybody else in the house besides you?"

Straight: "No."

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