Police identify victim in fatal Tuesday shooting in FWB
Shooter slain by Okaloosa deputies shortly after incident
FORT WALTON BEACH — The 27-year-old man who fatally shot a female coworker outside a Fort Walton Beach insurance office Tuesday afternoon had stolen the handgun used in the incident from his father’s safe some days before the shooting, according to Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley.
The .45-caliber handgun was one of two weapons taken from the safe belonging to Dan Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Insurance at 25 Walter Martin Road, by his son, Clyde, according to Ashley. The fatal shooting of 35-year-old Edith Cordona Cantu occurred in a parking lot behind the insurance office, according to law-enforcement officials.
A short time later, after fleeing from the shooting scene in a gold Toyota SUV, Clyde Sullivan turned the weapon on Okaloosa County deputies, who fired back and fatally wounded Sullivan as he sat in the SUV, parked inside the entrance to the Timberlake Pond Recreation Area off Lewis Turner Boulevard.
Eight deputies converged on the scene after a first deputy spotted Sullivan on Lewis Turner Boulevard and followed him to the recreation area. Four deputies fired on Sullivan after he fired, and they are on administrative leave with pay pending an administrative review of the shooting. None of the responding deputies were injured.
According to Ashley, an initial review of deputies’ body camera video "made it clear it was a justified use of force by deputies facing a clear and present danger," and that the names of the deputies involved won’t be released until the state attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office have completed their reviews. Ashley estimated Wednesday that deputies fired 40 shots in a matter of seconds, striking Sullivan multiple times.
The initial fatal shooting occurred shortly after 12:30 p.m. in a parking lot behind the insurance office, where Sullivan and Cantu had been seen conversing at the door of her car before the shots were fired, according to information from a news conference held Wednesday with Ashley, Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage, and other law enforcement officials at the Sheriff’s Office in Shalimar.
The shooting did not appear to be random, although both Bage and Ashley noted that the investigation is still in its early stages.
"We do believe that (Cantu) was the intended victim, (and) that (Sullivan) was waiting for her to walk out to the parking lot," Bage said, noting that Fort Walton Beach Police Department officers arrived on the scene within a minute after receiving the call to the shooting scene. Officers worked to keep Cantu alive until other emergency personnel arrived, but she died later at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Bage said
According to Bage, Cantu sustained multiple bullet wounds on her upper torso and right arm. Police recovered eight .45-cailber shell casings from the parking lot, he added.
Clyde Sullivan had been working at his father’s insurance office for some time, but Cantu had been working there for just a few months after moving to Fort Walton Beach from Texas, according to Bage.
Cantu was a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter, who is now staying with a relative in the area. Other family members were en route to Fort Walton Beach on Wednesday, Bage said.
According to Ashley, two of Sullivan’s family members contacted authorities while the search for Clyde Sullivan was under way, and said Sullivan "admitted to shooting Cantu." The callers also told authorities they suspected Sullivan was headed to a lawyer’s office on Lewis Turner Boulevard, prompting officials to lock down the campus of the Okaloosa Applied Technology School on Lewis Turner Boulevard as a precaution, Ashley revealed at the Wednesday news conference.
Clyde Sullivan was spotted in the Toyota SUV within 10 minutes of the Fort Walton Beach shooting, and the confrontation with Sullivan at the Timberlake Pond Recreation Area occurred just a few minutes later. A radio call that shots had been fired at the location was logged at 12:52 p.m., Ashley said Wednesday.
Autopsies of the victim and the shooter were being conducted Wednesday.
According to Bage, whose department is heading up the investigation into the fatal shooting of Cantu, no clear motive for the shooting has yet been developed. But, he said, authorities are considering three possibilities – mental illness on the part of the shooter, workplace violence, or issues in whatever relationship Cantu and Sullivan might have had, if any.
There were, however, some strong indications Wednesday that officials are looking at mental illness as a significant factor in the incident.
"I also want to encourage family members struggling with family members who have a mental illness, or are exhibiting paranoia or hallucinations or any of that to seek help, not to hide, and not to worry about the stigma or the artificial privacy barriers that we put in place," Ashley said.
"We’ve got to stop saying that those with mental illness are not a danger to our society," the sheriff continued. "There are a lot of them that are, and we’ve had a lot of killings at the hands of those going through a mental crisis. That’s the sheriff’s opinion."
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