LAKE WALES – A licensed clinical psychologist, whose mother says he has a history of suicide attempts, came close to finding a very unique way of ending his life on Friday, when he charged at a Polk County Sheriff’s deputy with a knife, and was shot several times as result.
“This is another example of the dangers our deputies face on a daily basis,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
The officer who responded to the home in Lake Wales, following a call about a man who was out of control and threatening to kill himself, was 20-year-old Deputy Jacob Durrance, who did not get hurt.
Emergency Medical personnel rushed to the scene following the shooting, and the man who was shot, Robert Goodwin, 43, was airlifted to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Goodwin was listed on Saturday in critical but stable condition. But if his health is now stable, his legal problems are just starting, and he faces a charge of attempted first degree murder of a law enforcement officer with a weapon.
Barbara Lawrence, Goodwin’s mother, told detectives that her son has a Master’s degree and was a licensed clinical psychologist when he lived in Idaho and California. But over the past four to five years, Lawrence told detectives, her son committed a series of failed suicide attempts, the most recent being just four weeks ago when he tried to overdose on sleeping mediciations. His mother told the sheriff’s office that Goodwin has been subject multiple times to being “Baker Acted.”
The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, commonly known as the “Baker Act,” is a state law that allows for the involuntary examination or emergency involuntary commitment of an individual who has a mental illness or poses a danger to themselves or others.
Judd said this case demonstrates that his officers face great risks on a daily basis as they work to protect the law-abiding citizens of Polk County.
“Deputy Durrance responded to a call for help, and faced an armed and dangerous suspect instead,” Judd said. “This very violent and unstable man intended to harm himself and anyone who tried to stop him.”
It happened around 8:36 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, when Durrance – who has been with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office since Jan. 21, 2011, and is assigned to the Southeast District Patrol Division — responded to a call from a neighbor at Lawrence’s home on Beechwood Avenue in Lake Wales. The neighbor said a man staying next door was threatening to kill himself with a knife.
Durrance was met in front of the home by Lawrence, who said her son was inside, breaking and destroying things, and she confirmed that he did in fact have a knife and was angry and suicidal.
Deputy Durrance reported hearing noises from inside the home, and approached the front door. He had been riding that night with Polk County Sheriff’s Office Chaplin Daniel Woolman, who stayed outside the home with Lawrence.
Durrance reported that he tried to make contact with Goodwin at the front door, identifying himself as a law enforcement officer, but Goodwin refused to answer. Durrance went into the home through the porch area, and remained standing in front of an open sliding glass door. The deputy asked Goodwin to come outside and speak to him. That was when Durrance reported that Goodwin rushed into the room and charged at him, armed with a large knife.
Durrance twice ordered Goodwin to drop the knife, but Goodwin continued to run toward the deputy, who then fired several shots. Goodwin fell to the floor, and, after being shot, demanded that Deputy Durrance shoot him again, the officer reported.
Durrance wasn’t injured, although he was later placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an independent investigation into the shooting. It’s the standard policy of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s Administrative Investigations Section to conduct an independent investigation and internal administrative review of all shooting incidents. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations is also conducting an investigation of this shooting, while the State Attorney’s Office for the 10th Judicial Circuit — which had a representative on the scene Friday night — will also review the case.
After the shooting, Polk County detectives learned that Lawrence had left the house to run some errands, leaving Goodwin behind. She later got a call from her neighbor saying there were loud noises coming from the home, and it sounded like her son was destroying things.
When Lawrence got back home, detectives reported, she found her son very angry, and her house in complete disarray. She told her son she was calling law enforcement. The arrest report notes that “Goodwin then broke Lawrence’s cell phone, shoved his mother and placed his hands around her neck. Lawrence was able to flee to a neighbor’s house and law enforcement was contacted.”
Goodwin has a criminal arrest history in both California and Florida. That includes arrests in May 2008 for driving under the influence, receiving stolen property, and vehicle theft, and in September 2008 for possession of a stolen vehicle, driving under the influence, and grand theft, both in California.
In Florida, his earlier arrests include driving under the influence in February 2010 and driving with a suspended license in May 2010.
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