MIAMI – A former city commissioner recently indicted on corruption charges fatally shot himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald building the same day another newspaper published lurid accusations against him.
Arthur E. Teele Jr. (search) shot himself in the head Wednesday after asking a security guard if he could deliver a message to columnist Jim DeFede (search), a longtime acquaintance, the Herald reported Thursday.
"Tell my wife that I love her," the guard said Teele told him.
Teele died about two hours later at a hospital.
"What a tragedy it is for his family, for the community," City Commissioner Johnny Winton (search) said. "It's unbelievable. He was a fighter and I respected that part of him."
Teele and an electrical contractor were indicted July 14 on federal charges of lying to get more than $20 million in contracts at Miami International Airport (search) that were supposed to go to minority-owned businesses. He had pleaded not guilty.
Teele, who is black, was also convicted in March in state court of threatening a police officer as part of an unrelated corruption investigation. Documents had been filed Tuesday seeking to revoke his probation and send him to jail.
On Wednesday, The Miami New Times, an alternative weekly newspaper, published a report online entitled "Tales of Teele: Sleaze Stories" that detailed the former commissioner's alleged contacts with drug dealers, crooked contractors and prostitutes, including a male transvestite. The story was largely based on police reports.
DeFede said he spoke with Teele several times Wednesday, the Herald reported.
In the longest call, about 90 minutes before the shooting, Teele spoke emotionally about his legal problems and various allegations that had been made against him.
"He was very upset," DeFede told the paper. "He was not crying. But I would say the emotion in his voice was as if he's crying."
In their last conversation, Teele said he was at the Herald and leaving DeFede a package, but did not sound particularly upset, DeFede said.
"I said to Art, 'Well, is it urgent? Do you want me to come down there right now? Is it something I need to see tonight?'"
Teele replied no, and hung up. He shot himself moments later.
The Herald subsequently fired DeFede after discovering that he had recorded one of the phone conversations without Teele's permission — a violation of state law. Herald Publisher Jesus Diaz (search) said in a statement that DeFede had "acknowledged his mistake."
The Associated Press could not reach DeFede for comment.
Diaz also expressed regret over the shooting in his statement.
"All of us at the Miami Herald Publishing company wish to extend our sympathy to Mr. Teele's family and many friends at this difficult time," he said.
The writer of the New Times story, Francisco Alvarado, told the Herald it was a "surreal coincidence" that Teele shot himself the same day his article was published.
"I really feel bad," he said. "I would never want anyone to harm themselves over something I wrote, but at the end of the day, I was just doing my job."