A Florida sheriff’s deputy killed three relatives, including his 6-year-old granddaughter, then got on the department’s radio to admit to doing so before killing himself near a high school Wednesday morning, authorities said. The incident unfolded before school started in Plant City, a rural community east of Tampa.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said Terry Strawn, a school resource officer at Valrico Elementary School, shot his wife and granddaughter at one home, then went to his daughter’s house and shot her. The granddaughter attended the elementary school where the deputy was employed, reports CBS affiliate WTSP.
Strawn then shot himself outside Plant City High School in front of three other deputies who had arrived at the scene. Strawn used his service weapon in the slayings, reports WTSP.
Chronister said during a news conference Strawn came on the department’s main radio channel to say he had harmed his family. He also told deputies he was going to kill himself near the high school. Chronister said a supervisor got on the radio and tried to calm Strawn and de-escalate the situation while officers were sent to the scene, according to WTSP.
“Three other deputies located him,” said Chronister. “Came into contact with this deputy. Made every attempt possible to try to convince this deputy sheriff that there was a different way, that there was a different solution. Unfortunately, the deputy took his own life on scene in front of the other deputies.”
Strawn’s final radio transmissions made reference to emotional and financial issues, the sheriff said.
“We’re not exactly certain what that means,” Chronister said. “That will be part of the investigation.”
Chronister said Strawn said in the transmission that he “wanted us to know that depression is real” and that he “wanted to go be with his family.”
Chronister identified the victims as 54-year-old Theresa Strawn, the deputy’s wife; 32-year-old Courtney Strawn, the deputy’s daughter and 6-year-old Londyn Strawn, his granddaughter.
The deputy had ties to the sheriff’s office dating back to 1991. He retired from the office and then returned to duty as a school resource officer. Chronister reportedly said they had just told him he was being hired back permanently for the school resource officer position. Chronister said Strawn seemed excited about the news.
The sheriff said Strawn also has other family members employed with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Chronister said grief counselors are being made available for the sheriff’s office and Valrico Elementary School. The school released a statement saying students and staff are “devastated by this unthinkable tragedy.”
“Londyn was a first-grade student at the school,” the statement said. “She loved to learn and was excited about reading and math. She had a kind spirit and always helped classmates. The news came as a shock to everyone at the school and they are working through their grief.”
This is the second time a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy was involved in a murder-suicide. On Sept. 24, a deputy killed his wife and then himself while the couple’s four children were home.