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By Lauren Glenn, The Ledger
It makes the fourth shooting by a local law enforcement officer this year.
HAINES CITY — In the third shooting this week involving a Polk County law enforcement officer, and the fourth since the year began, a 24-year-old Haines City man was wounded after he pointed a gun at a sheriff’s deputy, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
Morgan Nicholas Langston, 24, of 671 Ellison Parkway, was wounded on the wrist and shoulder and taken to Heart of Florida Medical Center. He was later taken to Peace River Center for evaluation, the sheriff’s office said.
After he was released from Peace River Center, Langston was placed in the Polk County Jail without bond on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer, without intent to kill.
Sheriff’s officials said Deputy Joe Murphy acted properly when he fired one shot at Langston after Langston cracked open the door of a room at his family’s home and pointed a gun.
“At this point, it appears there is no problem with the shooting,” Sheriff’s Office Chief Rick Sloan. “The guy was armed with lethal force, and we were obviously justified to use lethal force.”
Langston’s mother and brothers dispute the sheriff’s account and say the situation could have been handled without shooting Langston.
The family members said he held an unloaded gun and did not aim at the deputies.
“They promised me they wouldn’t shoot my son,” Charlee Langston said. “And then they shot him anyway.”
Family members said Langston had been taking medication to treat depression and was upset Wednesday after arguing with his girlfriend.
At 9:18 p.m. Wednesday, four sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call made by Langston’s brother, Christopher Langston, saying that Langston had locked himself in his room with a gun. More deputies arrived later.
The mother said she and her son were trying to talk Langston into giving up his gun when deputies arrived. She said he had slid two ammunition clips under the door and was attempting to slide the gun when deputies forced them to leave the house.
However, sheriff’s officials said Langston’s .22-caliber handgun was loaded and more ammunition was found on a desk in his room.
Sloan, who oversees the sheriff’s division of law enforcement, said deputies spent an hour trying to talk Langston into laying down the gun before he cracked open the door of the room and pointed the weapon at Murphy.
Sloan said Murphy fired one shot. Langston was wounded on the wrist and shoulder.
A bullet hole in the bedroom door indicates the bullet from the deputy’s gun went through the door at a slight angle and came out through the edge of the door, where it locks. Sloan said.
“He was shot in the right hand, which is consistent with him partially opening the door where he could see and point the gun at Deputy Sheriff Murphy,” he said. “According to what I’m being told, it was open far enough for him to be able to point the gun at Deputy Sheriff Murphy and for Deputy Sheriff Murphy to take corrective action.”
Sloan said it would have been too risky for the deputies to use a Taser, a nonlethal weapon the Sheriff’s Office purchased in 2003.
Tasers are capable of shooting a suspect up to 21 feet away by sending out a long wire with an attached probe that pierces the victim’s skin and emits 50,000 volts of electricity, temporarily incapacitating the target.
Sloan said that because a Taser shot can cause a person’s muscles to contract violently and because the deputies were inside a house, it would have been too dangerous to use a Taser on Langston because he could have involuntarily fired the gun.
Charlee Langston said she and her sons have spoken with a lawyer about Langston’s case.
Murphy has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Sheriff’s Office reviews the shooting. The State Attorney’s Office will conduct a separate review, sheriff’s spokeswoman Michal Shanley said.
Murphy joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1993, resigned for a short time in 2000 and rejoined the department in 2001.
Three other officer-involved shootings have occurred this year in Polk, none of them fatal:
On Tuesday, a Lakeland police officer fired two shots at 27-year-old Michael Worlds Jr. of Lakeland, who was driving on Kathleen Road shortly before 2 p.m. Worlds’ car was stopped for speeding and he then drove at the officer, police said.
On Monday, sheriff’s deputies shot Wesley Caruthers, 39, at least once about 10:40 p.m. Monday night outside his room at the Crossroads Motor Lodge in Lakeland, on U.S. 98 near Interstate 4. Caruthers was a suspect in a series of bank robberies. Deputies said he was attempting to flee when they opened fire.
On Jan. 12, a Lake Hamilton police officer wounded Donny Holmes, 23, of Bartow, who police said was driving a stolen pickup truck and drove at the officer.
Lauren Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-401-6967.