LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says a 60-year-old man who was reportedly mourning the recent death of his wife died in a “classic suicide by cop” situation in Lakeland on Friday.
Kenneth Layton called deputies to his home on Saddlehorn Drive around 10:30 a.m. to report a suspicious and possibly armed person knocking on his door, the sheriff’s office says.
While deputies responded to the scene, dispatchers stayed on the line with Layton and say he reported seeing a shadow and hearing a man’s voice. By the time deputies got to the home, they say Layton was hyperventilating.
One of the responding deputies eventually knocked on his door. Judd says he didn’t respond at first, but then swung the door open. When the deputy looked inside, Judd says Layton was inside pointing a gun at the deputy.
“During the 911 call, we hear the deputy all of a sudden start screaming, ‘put the gun down, put the gun down. Drop the gun,'” Judd said.
The sheriff says his deputy at that point thought Layton was just a scared homeowner and started backing away while identifying himself as law enforcement. The deputy then backed behind his patrol car.
“Kenneth follows him out of the house with a gun down to his side,” Judd said. “And all of a sudden, he points the gun at the deputy.”
Sheriff Judd says the deputy shot one time and hit Layton in the chest, killing him.
“This is a classic suicide by cop,” Sheriff Judd said.
The sheriff’s office says they have been told the man’s wife died approximately two months ago from cancer. They are still working to verify that.
“He had dinner the night before on Thanksgiving with some of his neighbors and he was talking to his neighbors about how much he missed his wife,” Judd said.
The sheriff says deputies have also had a preliminary conversation with the man’s son, who reported that he had been afraid his dad might hurt himself because he was so distraught.
“This is a horrible event to occur to anyone. And now I’ve got a 15-year deputy who’s very experienced…who’s got to live with this for the rest of his life,” Judd said. “And all he was doing was defending himself.”
“It’s a sad situation,” he added. “I’m sorry that he put us in that situation. I’m sorry that he didn’t allow us to help him.”