TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A man set his house on fire and then started shooting at responding police officers and firefighters Saturday, killing a deputy and wounding another one before he was shot to death by law enforcement, authorities said.
The first deputy who approached the house at the end of a cul-de-sac was shot to death. The gunman picked up the deputy's gun, walked down the street and used it to shoot a second deputy, Lt. James McQuaig of the Leon County Sheriff's Office said.
Dozens of first responders had descended on the scene about 10:15 a.m., but no one else was hurt in the shooting.
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. As night fell, investigators sifted through the rubble with shovels under the bright glow of spotlights.
"It is almost unimaginable that a call for help turned into the ambush of a Leon County Sheriff's Deputy and the shooting of another deputy by the assailant. Every one of these first responders is a hero and our hearts go out to them and their families," Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said in a statement.
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 thought was from the house burning.
"I saw a 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 gunman, who was not immediately identified, was shot to death by a Tallahassee police officer who lived nearby. The officer heard the initial shooting, 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 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.
Dana Harrison, 20, said she was babysitting three young boys in a nearby house when she heard 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.
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.