INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - On Friday morning Indian River County Sheriff’s Office deputies, along with Indian River County Fire/EMS, responded to a structure fire at a mobile home in the 5000 block of 45th Street. The home was fully involved with fire when emergency crews arrived, and was completely destroyed.
About a dozen neighboring mobile homes were evacuated when it was reported that there may have been dynamite in the burning in the home.
Investigators say 77 year old Jimmie Lee Garrett was attempting to set a riding lawnmower on fire and then drove it into the side of his trailer.
Neighbors say they attempted to pull the riding mower away from the house and stop the subject from burning his home.
But investigators say the 77 year old confronted the neighbors with a rifle and ordered them to leave him alone and not interfere with his attempts to set the home and lawn mower on fire.
Neighbors told investigators that he fired several shots in the air in an apparent attempt to scare them. One witness reported the subject was pouring gasoline on his trailer and a burnt gas can was found nearby.
"He pulled a rifle on them and told them to get away," neighbor Amy Bowling said.
As the neighbors who attempted to stop the subject were walking away from the now armed man, they reported hearing another gunshot and turned to see the elderly man, now seated in his wheel chair next to his car, with an injury to his head from an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound.
The wound was not fatal and the man was able to speak with deputies when they arrived.
One of the pieces of information he relayed was that he had dynamite in his trailer. Fire officials were unable to confirm if there was dynamite in the home but there appeared to be several small explosions consistent with ammunition being burned.
"This is a tragic and sad situation. I hope he gets the help that he needs," Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said.
The subject was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, where he is being treated for his injury. While there, he continued to speak with investigators. He will likely receive a psychiatric evaluation after he is treated for the gunshot wound.
Precious Harris arrived on the scene later in the afternoon and said she is Garrett's caregiver.
"I didn't even know he had a gun! He didn't look depressed. I come here three times a week to help him because he can't walk since having a stroke," Harris said.
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