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A child, 3 officers
and gunman dead

Officer Randy Bell, left, suspect Hank Carr and officer Rick Childers, far right, leave the house after questioning. Carr shot Bell and Childers, then escaped. [Times photo: Ken Helle]



© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 1998

The killing started with a rifle shot at 10 a.m. that left a 4-year-old Tampa boy dead. Before the long, bloody day was done, two veteran Tampa police detectives and a rookie highway patrol trooper were murdered and the suspect in all four deaths, a habitual felon with a love of automatic weapons, would die by his own hand.

Click to see enlarged mapHank Earl Carr, 30, apparently shot himself inside a Shell station in Hernando County just before 8 p.m., as 170 police officers from three counties surrounded him and SWAT teams prepared to move in.

Click on map to enlarge

A female employee at the station, whom Carr had held hostage, was released unharmed just moments before he died.

Tampa police Detectives Rick Childers, 46, and Randy Bell, 44, were killed by Carr about 2 p.m. as they drove him to the police station for questioning. During a subsequent chase, Carr killed highway patrol Trooper James Crooks, 23, and shot and wounded two unidentified truck drivers he encountered on the highway.

Tampa police Chief Bennie Holder called it the darkest day in his 25-year police career. It was the worst day for law enforcement deaths in bay area history.

• Detective hailed as hero, professional, friend

• Among police, 'the world is paralyzed; everybody is crying'

• Trooper had been on job less than year

• Detective Bell just weeks away from 'dull' job

• Carr lived as he died: in violence

• Made-for-TV tragedy unfolded too quickly for live reports

• Caseworkers received allegations of abuse

• Handcuff procedures questioned

• 970 WLFA's Exclusive
Interview with Hank Car

The day started with a tragic, but perhaps accidental shooting, then escalated on wave after wave of violence and gunfire.

Joey  Bennett
Joey "Bubby" Bennett, 4
[Photo / AP]
The first scene was in Tampa inside a wood-frame upstairs apartment at 709 E Crenshaw St., just north of where the Hillsborough River crosses Nebraska Avenue, near Sulphur Springs.

Neighbors knew Carr only as "Boo." His girlfriend, Bernice Bowen, 24, was known around the neighborhood as "Denise." They had lived in the apartment for about a year with Bowen's two children, Joey Bennett, 4, and Kayla Bennett, 5, neighbors said.

Alicia Webb, 15, lives with her mother in an apartment next door and sometimes babysat for Carr and Bowen. Tuesday morning, she was walking from the brick house adjacent to Carr's apartment when she heard a gunshot about 9:45 a.m.

"Denise came running downstairs crying. There was blood on her shoulder. She was shouting, "Alicia, my baby! My baby! My baby! Please help me,' " Webb said.

There was no telephone in the apartment, so Carr and Bowen took the wounded boy, Joey, to fire station No. 7 on
Alicia Webb, 15, left, who lives in a neighboring apartment, often babysat for Carr and Bowen. [Times photo: Cherie Diez]
Hanna Avenue, a few blocks away. Webb saw Joey with a bloody wound at the back of his head.

Then Webb talked to their daughter, Kayla, who was left behind.

"Kayla told me, "Daddy shot him,' " Webb recalled.

Joey Bennett was pronounced dead at the fire station by paramedics. Carr left the fire station, over the objections of police and paramedics.

Police officers went to Carr's apartment to investigate. When they tried to talk to Carr he ran to a neighbor's house a block away, but police captured him and took him into custody between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m., said Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole. He was brought to police headquarters and interviewed for about two hours by homicide detectives Childers and Bell.

While he had originally told police the child had been killed while playing with the gun, he changed his story, saying the gun went off as he took it from the boy.

Childers and Bell returned with Carr to the apartment about 1:10 p.m. to perform a "walk-through" to re-create what happened when the 4-year-old boy was shot.

Twenty minutes later, detectives placed Carr in the back seat of their unmarked car. The weapon that killed the boy, an SKS semiautomatic rifle, was placed in the trunk of the car. Childers drove the car, Bell sat in the passenger seat. Carr sat in the back seat of the Ford Taurus with his hands cuffed in front of him.

When they left Carr's home, it is believed the detectives traveled south on Nebraska and west on Sligh to get onto the interstate traveling south. They exited the interstate at Floribraska Avenue and a struggle ensued on Elmore Street, which runs parallel to the interstate. The detectives were shot and killed in the car on Elmore Street, just north of Floribraska.

Police are unsure what happened, but in a chilling account told to a local radio station, Carr said he had managed to slip one hand free of the cuffs and grab Childers' gun. He said that he shot Childers and killed him and that Bell was killed after he jumped into the back seat to try to restrain Carr.

Carr then unlocked the trunk and grabbed his rifle and ran. Moments later, he carjacked a 1997 white Ford Ranger on Floribraska and headed north on the interstate.

Police officials at the scene said they believed Childers was shot in the head and Bell was shot in the chest, but Cole would say only that they were both shot in the upper body.

In a wild chase north on Interstate 75, troopers and deputies sniped at Carr from overpasses, and Carr fired his rifle at law enforcement officers and motorists who got in his way.

Trooper James B. Crooks, 23, started pursuing Bennett on I-75 near the northbound exit ramp of State Road 54. Minutes later, the call came that Crooks had been shot, said Lt. Mike Guzman, the highway patrol's public information officer. It is unclear whether Crooks had pulled Bennett over or whether he was shot while in pursuit.

Law enforcement personnel gather on Florida Highway 50 just east of Interstate 75, near the Shell station where Carr was holding a hostage. [Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Brooksville resident Mike Bedwell, 36, pulled into a Shell station near the State Road 50 exit ramp about 2:45 p.m. Minutes later, Carr came down the I-75 off-ramp because officers had blocked the interstate.

Bedwell heard officers fire several shots at the suspect's white pickup, blowing out his tires. Carr later told radio stations he was wounded by the shots.

The white pickup continued across a grass median on State Road 50. "He was still going pretty fast," Bedwell said. The suspect's pickup passed within inches of Bedwell's truck and nearly smashed into the gas pumps.

As the pickup kept rolling forward, the suspect jumped out. "He fired at least three shots at the officers -- POW POW POW -- and then ran into the station," Bedwell said.

More than 75 marked police cars descended on the intersection. Eventually more than 170 law enforcement officers were on the scene.

S.W.A.T. team members converge outside the service station. [Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
Inside the station, Carr took a hostage, 27-year-old clerk Stephanie Kramer.

The suspect asked to talk to his wife, whom officers brought from Tampa. After arriving she talked to her husband on the phone several times, said Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deanna Dammer.

The four-hour standoff ended just before 8 p.m. when Kramer was released.

The Tampa police bomb squad set off a charge that blew a hole in the rear of the concrete block building. When police entered, they found Carr dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

At 9 p.m., a dozen people gathered outside police headquarters before a memorial to Tampa officers slain in the line of duty. Two dozen bouquets lay at the base of the memorial.

Officer Gina Bennett stood nearby in street clothes, holding a candle.

"Hurts to be an officer," she said. Just then, wind blew out the flame.

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