"I shot a police officer," Humberto Delgado Jr. told his uncle by cell phone. "I think I killed him."
Those words, related by Tampa police Thursday, were spoken just before police arrested Delgado and charged him with killing Cpl. Mike Roberts.
It stunned those who knew he had mental health issues but never saw him display violent tendencies.
Told Thursday that the father of her 2-year-old son has been accused of killing the officer, Shayla Evans asked, "Are you serious? Oh, my lord. Oh, lord."
Delgado, a former police officer and U.S. Army private, may have mental health issues, but he wasn't the type of man who would shoot a cop, Evans and his friends said. Delgado was arrested late Wednesday and charged with murder of a law enforcement officer.
Delgado is confined in Orient Road Jail on suicide watch, with a deputy keeping an eye on him 24 hours a day. He is being held in the highest security level, meaning any time he leaves his cell, he will be in handcuffs and box chains, Hillsborough County sheriff's Col. Jim Previtera said. Delgado only will be allowed to leave the cell one hour a day, and during that time he can shower or walk around inside his jail pod.
Evans said Delgado, who served as a police officer in the Virgin Islands from April 1996 to October 2000, had been staying with family in Oldsmar since April but had become "basically homeless." He declined to get real help for his health issues, she said.
Family at the Oldsmar home declined to comment. But Evans said he had been clinically diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"I knew something was wrong, because I hadn't heard from him," she said.
She said he has a temper and doesn't know what he's doing, and that he had been medically discharged from the Army because of an injured back and the mental health issue.
According to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard McNorton, Delgado was a former private first class for the Army, joining in August 2004 and serving until December 2005. McNorton said for privacy reasons he could not say why Delgado left, but that his character of service was "honorable."
Delgado was a petroleum supply specialist, fueling vehicles or aircraft. He earned the National Defense Service Medal, given to soldiers who serve honorably during a time of national emergency, McNorton said. He did not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan during his time of service.
He worked at Fort Lee in Virginia and had his last duty station with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, according to his separation records from the Army. He then was sent to Company C, Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., a base hospital. Separation papers don't indicate whether he worked at the hospital or received treatment there.
Delgado has three children, including two who live in the Virgin Islands, Evans said.
Glenda Cruz, who has known Delgado since she was 15 and they grew up in St. Croix, said his life has been filed with trials and tribulation but that she always considered him a sweet person and a good father.
In their last conversations, which occurred via email months ago, Cruz said Delgado told her he felt lonely. She said he told her a lot of bad things happen to him but he keeps hopeful in God's name.
"I did not invent a lot of stuff to happen, but I'm still trying to overcome all the evil and trying to keep it real," she said he wrote.
She said she always knew he had a mental health issue, but that when she spent time with him years ago, he didn't display violent tendencies. "He's a very, very smart, very bright kid, very artistic. I'm just surprised. I'm surprised."
Asked whether there was anything else to say about what had happened, she said, "There's nothing really right to say at this moment. The only thing is that we'll pray for him. Pray for him and pray for the family that lost their dad or their husband or whatever that police officer was."
Tampa Police Chief Steve Hogue said the fact that Delgado himself had been a police officer "makes it even more difficult to understand how somebody with a law enforcement background could do something like this."
But in the years after leaving the police force, Delgado's mental health deteriorated, said Gabriel Reyes, who also attended St. Croix Central High School with Delgado. Still, Reyes said he had never known Delgado to be a violent person. In fact, in school, Delgado protected Reyes from bullying.
Wednesday's arrest wasn't Delgado's first encounter with local law enforcement this week.
About 1 a.m. Monday, Pinellas County Deputy Russell Klar saw Delgado, who "appeared to be living at the Veterans Memorial Park in the city of Oldsmar," a report states. Delgado was sleeping near a restroom in the picnic pavilion at the park's northeast corner. Delgado had been seen walking east on Lafayette Boulevard with a large tan desert camouflage backpack.
"Delgado stated that he is a disabled veteran who is trying to gain additional financial assistance from the government in order to obtain or arrange some housing," the report states. "Delgado does have family in Oldsmar to whom he is currently not talking."
Delgado told the deputy he had a nearby storage locker.
The deputy warned Delgado about the park's hours and that Monday would be his last morning to spend there. He told Delgado to make other arrangements. Delgado said he understood he could be issued a trespass warning or be cited for violating an ordinance if he continued living in the park, the report states.
Nearly three days later, he was arrested for Roberts' death. He is scheduled to have an initial court appearance this morning before Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich.
Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said her office would oppose any bail for Delgado.
Prosecutors have 45 days from the time a suspect is arraigned to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Legal experts said that decision is based on the nature of the crime and the personal and criminal history of the accused.
In March 2007, while living in Fayetteville, Delgado and Shayla Evans had a son - Gadieloh Delgado.
On Facebook, Delgado said he believes in a higher power. He said he loves his children, that his activities include dominoes, fishing and real estate.
On his MySpace profile, Delgado wrote: "Hi people of the world I am here just chilling in my own meditation. Enjoying life without any judgment because we all got the same blessings, we just have to wait patiently and we receive, One Love. In this world of transgression we go through our differences and disagreements a whole lot more than we really notice but that's why we survive. We survive through realness."