- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 26, 2009

CRESTVIEW, Fla. (AP) — Two north Florida sheriff’s deputies were fatally shot at a shooting range by a suspect who was later killed in an exchange of gunfire with deputies after he fled across the county line, authorities said.

It happened around 1 p.m. Saturday when the two Okaloosa County deputies went to Shoal River Sporting Clays and Shooting Center in response to a domestic violence call, sheriff’s officials said.

Deputies Burt Lopez and Deputy Warren “Skip” York were pronounced dead after being airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, about 45 miles away, the sheriff’s office said. Officials identified their killer as Joshua Cartwright, 28, of Fort Walton Beach.

Authorities said Cartwright, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier, shot both deputies and took off toward neighboring Walton County, where he was killed by Walton County deputies after an exchange of gunfire at a roadblock.

A witness, Mark Illich was near the DeFuniak Springs intersection where the Walton County deputies killed Cartwright.

“It must have been like 30 or 40 shots,” Illich told The Northwest Florida Daily News.

Illich said he saw one officer putting down spikes at the intersection and knew “something’s about to happen.”

Then, “(Cartwright’s) truck, he started coming. And we saw him, and he seemed calm as a cucumber,” Illich said.

Cartwright veered around the spike strip, and an officer opened fire at the back of his truck, Illich said.

The incident began shortly after 10 a.m. when the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center notified the sheriff’s office that Cartwright’s wife said she had been beaten by her husband, according to a timeline released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the sheriff’s office.

The two deputies found Cartwright at the shooting range and began trying to arrest him shortly before 1 p.m., but they reported that he was refusing to cooperate with their attempts to handcuff him.

At 12:51 p.m. dispatchers received a call that an officer had been hit and began their search for Cartwright, who had left the shooting range in his truck.

Deputies shot and killed Cartwright around 1:10 p.m.

Cartwright had been arrested in November on a charge of domestic battery against his wife, Elizabeth Marie Cartwright, 21, and that the charge was still pending.

According the sheriff’s office incident report, the couple had argued in a store parking lot. Cartwright told deputies that “things got out of hand when he heard enough of her shouting at him,” and that he pushed her in the face with his open hand.

The Daily News reported that Cartwright had worked as a bouncer at a Fort Walton Beach bar. The sheriff’s office said Cartwright also served in the U.S. Army Reserves and the 2008 arrest report listed the Army as his employer.

Lopez and York were wearing bulletproof vests when they were killed, said Michele Nicholson, spokeswoman for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Nicholson said Elizabeth Cartwright was treated at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center on Saturday for domestic abuse injuries and was released.

“We’re experiencing a range of emotions, from heartache and disbelief to numbness, that these men were taken from our agency, their family and friends, and their communities,” Nicholson said. “Our focus right now is to take care of their loved ones, and each other, and continue to serve the public, as we work through this latest devastating event.”

The slain deputies, both 45, were retired from the U.S. Air Force, Nicholson said. Lopez had five children and York had a 10-year-old son, according to the Daily News.

It was the latest in a series of traumatic episodes for the department.

Another Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed in July following a standoff with a man who had barricaded himself inside a home.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Charles Morris was suspended by Gov. Charlie Crist in February after he was arrested by FBI agents while on a gambling trip to Las Vegas.

Morris and his former office manager were indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday on theft, money laundering and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors allege Morris and his former office manager, Teresa Adams, created fictitious bonuses for sheriff’s department employees then pocketed some of the money.

A man who answered the telephone at the shooting center near Crestview said he had no comment on the shooting.

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