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Monday, Oct 22, 2018
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'He Thought He Had To Do Some Hero Thing': Gunman Shot, Killed At St. Pete Courthouse

ST. PETERSBURG -- Glen Lee Powell left his mother's house this afternoon, she said, armed with his convictions that government and law enforcement had interfered with his personal freedoms. Powell was going through a divorce, and the documents were filed at the St. Petersburg Courthouse. His mother, Virginia Powell, pleaded with him to take her. Glen Powell told her no, and his mother said he may have plotted out what happened next. "He just thought he had to do some hero thing," she said.
Powell was shot and killed after firing at two deputies with a semi-automatic handgun moments after he walked into the courthouse this afternoon, Pinellas County sheriff's office deputies said. Deputy B.J. Lyons, 58, was shot in the shoulder. Deputy Martin Glover, 57, was not hurt. They returned fire and fatally shot Powell. "I don't know if he thought he was making a statement or what," Virginia Powell said. Glen Powell, 30, was spending a lot of time on a militia Web site called Freedom Force International, his mother said. According to the site, "Freedom Force International is a network of men and women from all parts of the world who are concerned over loss of personal liberty and expansion of government power." "Those Web sites are so clever, they suck vulnerable people in," she said. "I thought, if he doesn't get his head straight, what's going to happen to him?" The Eagle Scout and former student at Brandon High School constantly read the U.S. Constitution, his mother said. He was enamored with the passages on how citizens should arm themselves, take care of their own and not have police and government interference, Virginia Powell said. Glen Powell told his mother that "we shouldn't have police and the courts are corrupt." She said, "I told him that's what enemies of our country want us to think." Bomb-Sniffing Dog Checks Backpack Detectives from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Homicide Unit and Administrative Investigations Bureau were at the courthouse through the afternoon investigating the shooting. A bomb-sniffing dog searched the backpack that Powell carried into the courthouse, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Jim Bordner said. Powell approached a walkthrough electronic screening device about 1:10 p.m. when the deputies stationed at the checkpoint instructed him to remove the backpack and place it on the conveyor belt, the sheriff's office said. Powell threw the backpack to the ground. Then he took out a semi-automatic handgun and fired at Lyons and Glover. "I'd say luck and training were on their side," Bordner said. Lyons, a 25-year veteran with the sheriff's office who was serving as a bailiff, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with injuries that were not life-threatening. Investigators have not established a motive for why Powell opened fire. "It was unprovoked," Bordner said. Besides the gun, Powell had a loaded magazine in his possession, Bordner said. Powell was served divorce papers April 17 and had 20 days to respond, court records show. Today was the 21st day. He had been married to Vivian Powell since February 2002. He was living with his parents in Brandon after he and Vivian separated, his mother said. Powell was born in Okinawa, Japan, when his father served as a U.S. Marine and later lived in Hawaii. He spent most of his life in Brandon, his father, Ronald Powell, said. Glen Powell was an award-winning wrestler at Brandon High School and played French horn in the school band. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 2001, repairing military jets. Shortly after enlisting, he started visiting the Freedom Force International site, Virginia Powell said. "He was removed from the Air Force for his beliefs," she said. Powell, who once served with his church as a missionary to Colombia, was always a bit of a loner, his parents said. He had been working on and off installing backyard ponds with a friend but didn't have a steady job. People At Courthouse Shaken Prior to the shooting, one witness, Cassandra Grady, encountered the suspected gunman while with her 15-year-old daughter at the courthouse, 544 First Ave. N. Grady said the man with grayish black hair and a baseball cap asked her where he should go to file a petition. After she directed him to the front entrance, she saw a gun sticking out of the backpack he was carrying. "I knew when I looked in his eyes. It was something," she said. "I can tell a lot by a person's gestures, his eyes. I made eye contact, and his eyes told me to run, run for my life, and that's what I did." She said she warned people outside to run, too. Shara Ellis, a property manager taking care of some civil matters at the courthouse, said everybody ran for cover following the shooting. "I didn't see much. I heard," Ellis said. "I was standing in front of the elevator to go to the law library. ...In that moment, I heard an explosion. ...I was just riveted to the spot. I didn't move right away. When I did, I went to the detector. A man was on the floor in a ball. He had a backpack on." Debbie Haugabook, a supervisor of court records, was in the building. "After the shooting, everyone was under the desks or exiting as much as they could," she said. "They were going through side doors, exit doors, anything they could. I was in the elevator. I was really nervous. I was a little close for comfort." Alan Hebdon, a manager of the St. Petersburg court, was sitting in his office near the lobby when he heard the shots. "It sounded like a firecracker was going off," he said. "I heard a lot of, 'Get down.' " After roughly two dozen employees took cover behind and under desks, and "as soon as it calmed down a bit," everyone was ushered out a back entrance away from the lobby, Hebdon said. "They're a little shaken," he said, referring to his employees. "They're given the rest of the day off. "There are some people who are upset, and we'll take care of them as best as we can." Authorities will not release any 911 calls they received following the shooting, sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said.

Reporter Yvette C. Hammett can be reached at [email protected] Reporter Stephen Thompson can be reached at [email protected] Reporter Ray Reyes can be reached at [email protected]

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