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Visit to question man quickly turns deadly

Family members struggle to understand the man's death at the hands of a deputy.

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001


Family members struggle to understand the man's death at the hands of a deputy.

TAMPA -- The encounter Wednesday night between a deputy and a suspect quickly turned violent.

Rick Woychowski, a deputy for 12 years, shot 32-year-old Darrell Palmer several times after Palmer slammed his front door on Woychowski's hand and brandished a knife, sheriff's officials said.

Woychowski had gone to the Sierra Point apartment complex on Del Rey Court, south of Busch Boulevard, to question Palmer about a bomb threat at the Dillard's department store at Westshore Plaza.

In the apartment across the corridor, neighbor Johnnie Capehart heard someone shout, "Drop the knife! Drop the knife!" Then he heard shots.

Capehart dropped to the floor of his bedroom, where he had been watching news of the World Trade Center disaster on television, and made his way to his front door. Peering through the peephole, he saw Palmer's body on the landing.

Thursday, Palmer's 28-year-old brother, Jerome, said Palmer's family in Owego, N.Y., was struggling to understand what had happened.

"He was a good person, a devout Christian," said Jerome Palmer. "He's not an aggressive person, but he wasn't very trusting. He could have felt somewhat threatened at something."

Jerome Palmer said his brother developed a distrust of police years ago after a fight with a roommate. Darrell Palmer suffered injuries to his face, but police never charged the roommate, Jerome Palmer said.

An arrest last October at Dillard's probably reinforced his distrust, his bother said. Darrell Palmer had been arguing with his girlfriend, Kim, who worked at Dillard's. A charge of obstructing the officers who came to the scene was dropped, but Palmer thought the Dillard's security officers had overreacted, his brother said.

A record of that arrest shows that Darrell Palmer offered the name "Jamie God Bless" as an alias.

Darrell Palmer married Kim in November, his brother said. Kim Palmer was in the apartment when the shooting occurred. She could not be reached for comment.

Darrell Palmer had called the store more than once in the past two weeks to make bomb threats, said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. During one of those phone calls, he identified himself by name.

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