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Daughter remembers 'girl dad' postal worker shot dead in Fort Pierce

Family says Roosevelt 'Kent' Benjamin 1 of 3 killed in shooting that ended with officer killing man
Posted at 12:56 AM, May 20, 2024

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Roosevelt "Kent" Benjamin worked hard to provide for his family after working at the U.S. Postal Service for more than 30 years, all while creating a family with a woman he met and loved since middle school.

Tonia Thomason, who identified herself as Benjamin's daughter, told WPTV that her father was shot dead on Saturday in Fort Pierce. She described him as the "definition of a girl dad" who provided for his four daughters and nine grandchildren.

"Even though he was deaf, he just made sure that we [weren't] limited on anything," Thomason said. "He provided for us. He took care of us. My mom was a majority stay-at-home wife. He just did everything in our power to make us happy."

Thomason said he was killed in a shooting on Saturday. She was surrounded by family coming in and out of her dad's house, which she said he owned since 1993.

"Honestly, we're just devastated by what has happened," Thomason said.

Roosevelt 'Kent' Benjamin with wife wearing Dallas Cowboys clothing
Roosevelt "Kent" Benjamin and his wife are pictured wearing Dallas Cowboys clothing.

Maj. Mike Santiago, a spokesman for the Fort Pierce Police Department, said officers heard gunshots after finding a gunshot victim on Saturday. He said officers then moved a few blocks away, moving through people's backyards before engaging in a shootout with a man.

Santiago said the man died in the shooting. He said officers found two other additional gunshot victims — bringing the total to four.

Three of the four died, according to police. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the officer-involved shooting, while the Fort Pierce Police Department will investigate the other two deaths.

Police have only released the name of the 28-year-old man killed in a shootout with officers — Bernard Smith. The department hasn't released the names of the other victims or who shot the other three men.

Thomason said she believed it was more likely a man, rather than a stray bullet from an officer, killed her dad because camera footage from a Ring doorbell camera shows a man trying to get into her dad's house. She believes he got in through a side door because her dad couldn't hear the shootings.

Ring doorbell video shows man ringing doorbell to home where Roosevelt 'Kent' Benjamin found dead
Ring doorbell video shows a man ringing the front doorbell of Roosevelt "Kent" Benjamin's home. Benjamin was later found dead.

"The hardest part is knowing that if my dad could have just [heard], I think if he heard the gunshots, even a couple of houses down, he would have locked his door, and maybe that gentleman [would not have] made his way to the front door," Thomason said.

She also said it's frustrating not knowing if he was killed because he didn't comply with the man or couldn't understand him. Thomason said the result is going to hurt a lot of people.

"My dad was a great guy. He worked hard. He was just like anybody else," she said. "The only difference is is that he couldn't hear and the fact that somebody invaded his privacy and came and took his life, he just messed up a huge hole in a lot of people's heart[s]. I know he might have seemed like, 'Hey, you're just a deaf guy and you have no significance in this world,' but there are four young women here in this world that's now without a father. My mother is without her husband and my mother has been with my dad since middle school, and then we still have a plethora of aunts and uncles [who are] missing their brother as well."