Man sets house on fire, kills responding deputy

(AP Photo/Tallahassee Democrat, Karl Etters)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A man set his house on fire and then fatally shot a sheriff’s deputy and wounded another Saturday when they responded to the scene, before he was shot to death by other law enforcement officers, authorities said.

Deputies and firefighters responded to the blaze about 10:15 a.m. As the first deputy approached the house, he was fatally shot. The gunman picked up the deputy’s gun, walked down the street and used it to shoot a second deputy before he was killed, Lt. James McQuaig of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office said.

It wasn’t known yet whether anyone was in the home when it was set on fire. Pockets of flames could still be seen in the smoldering wreckage hours after the fire was set.

The gunman was shot to death by a Tallahassee police officer who lived nearby and heard the initial shooting. That officer threw on his bullet-resistant vest — a decision that would later save his life — and grabbed his gun and ran toward the house, according to a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly release the information.

The wounded deputy was saved by his vest and his injuries are not believed to be serious, said the official, who had spoken to law enforcement officials handling the case.

The names of the slain and wounded deputies were not immediately released. The gunman has also not been identified.

The house, at the end of a cul-de-sac in a middle-class neighborhood just outside the Tallahassee city limits, was destroyed by the fire. Neighbors were not being allowed onto the street.

Dana Harrison, 20, said she was babysitting three young boys in a nearby house when she heard approaching sirens, went outside and saw the fire. She then heard popping sounds, which she thought was caused by the fire but a neighbor said they sounded like gunshots. She had hustled the boys inside when two police officers banged on the front door and then ran through the house into the backyard, which is near the burning house. The police told Harrison to get everyone into the bathroom.

“I was scared,” she said.

Neighbor Joan Cabbage said she called 911 to report the fire while her husband Henry went outside. She said she could see two patrol cars pull into the cul-de-sac when she heard “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop” that she also thought was from the house burning.

“I saw fire truck and he started backing up real fast — I couldn’t figure out why,” she said. Her daughter, who had just left the house, then called to say police officers were running down the street with guns drawn.

“That’s when I knew something big was going on,” she said.

The shooting near Florida’s capital comes just two days after a police shootout at Florida State University left a gunman dead after he wounded two students and an employee.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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