Deputies Cleared In Fatal Shooting

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OCALA – No criminal charges will be filed against two deputies who fatally shot a 25-year-old Spring Hill man last November.

The State Attorney’s Office justified the lethal force used by deputies Christopher Croft and Michael Glatfelter in a letter obtained by Hernando Today on Thursday.

Its contents are the result of a closed investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the death of Kyle Gabelman.

The letter, written by Assistant State Attorney Richard Ridgeway, provides new details about the events that led deputies to fire six shots at Gabelman outside his parent’s house in the early afternoon of Nov. 20, 2007.

It paints a picture of a troubled man high on drugs and alcohol who told his mom that day she would hear about him on the evening news.

To his dad, he revealed his plans to “go out with a blaze of glory.”

Sheriff Richard Nugent said through a spokeswoman that the report speaks for itself and declined to comment further.

An internal investigation at the sheriff’s office will now be opened per policy for any officer-involved shooting.

Gabelman’s father, Tom, answered the door at their home on Banyan Drive and turned away a reporter.

The letter provides this narration of that day’s events:

On that morning, before noon, Gabelman showed up at his parent’s house angry about a recent breakup with his girlfriend. He appeared to have been drinking.

Tom Gabelman was concerned enough to call the sheriff’s office, but by the time deputies arrived his son was gone. Gabelman’s parents believed he was suicidal, so his name was entered into the National Crime Information Center as an “endangered missing person.”

Gabelman returned about 1 p.m. Deputy Croft responded and Glatfelter served as his backup. But Gabelman had left again, so Glatfelter made his way to a hit-and-run accident in the area.

In one of the two visits, Gabelman demanded prescription drugs from his father. When Tom Gabelman refused, his son fired a shot into the ceiling with a handgun.

Meanwhile, Glatfelter discovered that one of the vehicles involved in the hit-and-run belonged to Gabelman. When deputies went to his apartment to find him, they found it abandoned and in disarray.

An empty box for a 9 mm handgun and its ammo was also discovered.

The third and final time Gabelman turned up at his parent’s house was around 2 p.m. Again, deputies were called and this time Gabelman was home when they arrived.

Glatfelter and Croft found the suspect at the front door, demanding he be let inside. Because of previous reports that Gabelman was armed, the deputies drew their side-arms.

They demanded Gabelman show his hands. He turned and dropped “objects” in his hands, then removed a handgun from his waistband.

He waved the gun, but did not point it at the deputies. Instead of obeying their commands to drop the gun, Gabelman went around to the back porch of his house.

At one point, he put the gun to his head and said, “You’re going to have to kill me.”

After a “short period of time”, Gabelman fired a shot through the sliding glass door to get inside the house.

That shot prompted Glatfelter to go back to his car and retrieve his department-issued AR-15 rifle. Croft took a defensive position at the corner of the house with a view of the front of the house.

While the deputies were taking cover, Gabelman was inside in a confrontation with his father. Tom Gabelman pleaded with his son not to go outside because he would be shot.

Gabelman’s reply: “You want to see something, watch this.”

When Gabelman stepped outside, he held the gun where deputies could see it and chambered a round. Deputies yelled, “Put the gun down.”

Instead, Gabelman walked towards Deputy Glatfelter and fired two shots. The letter does not specify what direction those shots were fired.

Glatfelter returned four shots that struck and killed Gabelman. Croft also fired two shots, but they missed.

“Based upon these facts, there is no question that the actions of Deputy Glatfelter and Deputy Croft were completely justified by (Florida law),” the letter concludes.

Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or kmartin@hernandotoday.com.

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