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Hank Earl CARR





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Accident? - To avoid arrest
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: May 19, 1998
Date of birth: 1968
Victims profile: His girlfriend's four-year-old son / Tampa  Detectives Randy Bell, 44, and Rick Childers, 46, and Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks, 23
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Brooksville, Florida, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day

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Hank Earl Carr (1968 May 19, 1998) was a convicted criminal who, on May 19, 1998, shot his girlfriend's four-year-old son with a rifle, was arrested, and then escaped from his handcuffs and killed two Tampa detectives and a Florida state trooper. Carr then barricaded himself in a convenience store with a hostage before receiving a (possibly self-inflicted) gunshot wound to the head. Carr maintained that the shooting of his girlfriend's son was an accident.

The murders of the law-enforcement personnel prompted national controversy on the proper way to handcuff a suspected criminal, and local media were widely criticized for inhibiting police work while Carr was trapped in the convenience store.

Killings and suicide

On the morning of May 19, around 10:30, Carr carried the young son of his girlfriend Bernice Bowen into a fire station. The boy had a gunshot wound to the head, but the circumstances of the injury were unclear first Carr claimed that the boy was dragging a rifle and walking around when it accidentally discharged, but later he said that he himself had been holding it when it discharged.

Carr, having told police he was Joseph Bennett, the father of the child, ran back to the site of the shooting while being pursued by police. Threatening an officer with a rifle, he dropped it and again ran away, and this time was caught and handcuffed.

Tampa Police Department detectives Randy Bell and Ricky Childers took him back to the apartment where the boy had been shot to continue to interview him. On the trip back to the police department, with Bell and Childers in the front seats and Carr sitting behind them, handcuffed in front, Carr successfully unlocked his handcuffs with a key he carried on his person, and disarmed Childers by snatching his Glock handgun from his shoulder holster. In the struggle that ensued, Carr shot both detectives in the face, killing them at the scene.

Exiting the car, he carjacked a pickup truck and fled. After briefly visiting his mother and refueling at a local service station, he got on Interstate 75 heading north. The first police officer in pursuit was James Crooks, and as he approached, Carr veered onto an exit ramp, braked, and exited the truck. As Crooks also braked to a stop, Carr approached and shot him twice in the head, killing him instantly.

Getting back in the pickup truck, Carr fled as multiple police cars and a police helicopter pursued him in a high speed chase and gunfight. With his tires blown out and running low on ammunition, Carr exited the interstate and entered a convenience store, where he took as a hostage Stephanie Kramer, a pregnant clerk.

For the rest of the afternoon, he remained in the store, as nearly 200 police officers surrounded him. The WFLA radio station conducted phone interviews in the midst of the crisis, later drawing criticism from both journalism experts and police. At 7:20pm, Carr released Kramer and shot himself as a SWAT team forcibly entered the building.


Bowen's son ultimately died, raising the number killed by Carr to four. In later testimony it was revealed that he abused Bowen and her children, and he was found to be a convicted felon with a history of violent crime, including assault of police officers. He was also wanted in several states.

In 1999, Bowen was convicted of child neglect for allowing a violent felon around her children, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Later in 1999, she was charged with aiding and abetting Carr's escape, as well as the deaths of her son and the three police officers, by not telling police Carr's real name. Even after one officer broke down and begged her to tell them Carr's real name, Bowen didn't do so. Prosecutors claimed that if she had, police would have known he was a convicted felon and used tougher measures in handling him.

She was sentenced to 21.5 years in prison, to run concurrently with her child neglect sentence. However, those convictions were thrown out on appeal in 2001. A state appeals court found that prosecutors focused too much on what Bowen should have done to prevent Carr's rampage, rather than what she did after the crimes were committed. The court also acquitted her of aiding and abetting the deaths of her son and Trooper Crooks. She was convicted of the remaining charges in 2002, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sentencing guidelines called for only 611 years, but in sentencing her, the judge said that Bowen's lies to police were so egregious that they endangered the public. This sentence also runs concurrently with her child abuse sentence, and she is eligible for release in 2017.

Experts later expressed shock that the detectives had not handcuffed Carr's hands behind his back, but others defended the action, arguing that at the time the detectives thought they were dealing with a bereaved father, not a violent criminal. The media's handling of the situation also received sharp criticism, as in addition to the radio station's live interview, camera crews for local television stations were broadcasting live shots of the area surrounding the convenience store.


Hank Earl Carr

With three officers, a young boy and a repeat offender dead the carnage in the town of Brooksville, near Tampa, May 19, 1998, will be remebered as one of the deadliest days in the Florida's law enforcement history.

The bloodshed started shortly after 10 a.m.,when Carr - then identifying himself as Joseph Lee Bennett - and his wife carried his 4-year-old stepson Joseph into a neighborhood fire station with his face blown off.

They said the boy had been dragging the rifle behind him when they yelled at him to put it down and it went off. After the boy died he changed his story when questioned and the two detectives in charge cuffed him and decided to take him to headquarters.

Once he was in the back of the cruiser, he slipped out of the cuffs, grabbed the weapon of one of the two police officers and shot them both dead. Then he carjacked a truck and killed a rookie state trooper who tried to stop him.

Next he crashed into another Florida Highway Patrol car and shot at a truck driver who suffered minor injuries. He then pulled off the highway when officers blew out the tires of the truck, and he fled into the gas station as shots rang out around him.

With more than 170 officers ready to pump him full of lead Hank took a 22-year-old female gas station clerk hostage and demanded to speak with his wife. Thing got even weirder when WFLA, a local radio station, decided to give him a call and and interview him live.

After repeated pleads from the radio host, Carr released the hostage unharmed after a nearly four-hour standoff, then put a bullet in his head as police shot tear gas into the station and the SWAT team closed in.

Not the nicest of men, Carr, 30, had a criminal record dating back to 1986 that included burglary, domestic violence, assault, grand larceny, possession of cocaine and resisting an officer with violence.

"He would beat me constantly," said Evelyn Sacks, his ex-girlfriend in Ohio and mother of two children to Carr. "I'm glad he's dead. Live like that, die like that." Police confiscated three rifles from his home, including a Chinese version of the AK-47 assault rifle.

Hank Carr: I turned around to put it up, and I guess the butt hit the side of the wall and it went off. It discharged a round right through my son's face. I didn't know what to do. I was scared, I panicked, I flipped out. I knew he was still alive. I tried to get him medical attention. We threw him the car, we took him up, I seen a cop on the side of the road. I stopped him, he was acting like, he was just moving too slow for the emergency situation. I told him, "Look, I can't wait, my son's been shot, I got to go." He hollered out, "Go to the fire department down the street." I pulled into the fire department down the street. All this was an accident.

Well, when I pulled him out of the car and gave him to the paramedics, I felt his pulse again. It was gone. I knew at that time my son was dead.

We had left our little girl there with the neighbors, because my wife, Bernice, didn't want Kayla in the car with Joey, with him bleeding, because it would have freaked her out. So, I took off in the car again, I wasn't under arrest. So, I left and went back to get my daughter and to get the rifle for the cops, to show them. Well, while I was there, the cops showed up, and one of the cops grabbed his gun and said, "Don't move." So, I didn't move. They were sitting there talking to me. I said, "Am I under arrest?" They said, "No." I wanted to go be with my wife and see if my daughter was all right.

So, I took off to be with my wife. I hurt my leg, the cops surrounded me, they threw me in the back of the car, they took me downtown, they asked me a bunch of questions, they called me a liar. I tried to tell them it was an accident. They took me back to the scene, which was bad enough. My son's blood was all over the floor and the walls. And I tried to explain to them exactly what happened, they started calling me a liar, and this and that, and I was going to jail and prison, and blah blah blah.

They put me back in the cop car, and I asked them, you know, "Am I going to prison?" They said, "Yes." I got one of the handcuffs off. I reached up front and got the pistol away from the officer that was driving. The other one jumped in the back seat trying to get it away. I shot them both. I got in the truck that was parked behind me and made the guy get out. I opened up the back of the cop car and grabbed my rifle that they had took. Then I took off up north. I was heading north when the cops started chasing me. They were shooting at me, every underpass I went under they would shoot at the truck. They were shooting at me. They blowed my tires out. Ninty mile an hour, I almost wrecked twice. I finally got the car on the road. They were shooting at me, they shot me through the truck. I was hit in the ass, it's a big hole, I think it's a 45, I'm bleeding bad.

They've surrounded this place, now. I fell off into this gas station, running for my fucking life, and here I am.

And, that's my story. What happened to my son was an accident. It was a terrible accident, and I don't even think I deserve to live. It's unlikely that I'll come out of this alive. I can't see giving myself up to fry in the electric chair. I know I'll fry for the cops.

Don Richards: Who's in the Shell Station with you?

Carr: Um, the lady that works here. No harm will come to her, she's been very nice, very cooperative. If anything, I'll shoot myself. But my wife is supposed to be on the way. They're going to let me talk to her, hopefully she can talk me into making the right decision. Basically, I want to tell her that I'm sorry, and that it was an accident. She was there, she knows it was an accident. And I'm waiting on them.

Richards: Joseph, could you let that lady out?

Carr: Not at this time. Not until I hear from my wife. Which may be time to call now, I don't know what's going on.

Richards: Joseph, what is preventing you from putting down that weapon and just walking out?

Carr: I don't have the weapon, the weapon is laying right here beside me. I haven't had the weapon in my hand for over 15, 20 minutes, now. I'm not in no way threatening this lady. She's visibly upset, but she knows she's going to live. She will live.

Richards: Why don't you just open that door and walk out very slowly?

Carr: Well, there's snipe shooters ... and they're all laying under their cars and all. The police have surrounded ... there's cops everywhere. I'm not going out there. They done shot at me all day. They've been shooting at me for the last 30 miles, you know?

Richards: But if you are not a threat to them, then you should be able to get out OK. Isn't that sort of logical?

Carr: Well, I'm already shot. Logically, I don't want to fry in the electric chair. I don't want to go to prison. I don't want to have to eat the food. I don't want to have to live with people. I just ... I don't want to go to prison. I don't want to go.

Richards: The best advice I can give you would be to let that lady, who has nothing to do with any of this, out of that store. And, you know, and to follow her yourself.

Carr: Do me a favor. My real name isn't Joseph Lee Bennett.

Richards: What is it?

Carr: Hank Earl Carr.

Richards: Hank Carr?

Carr: Yep.

Richards: How do you spell that?

Carr: C-A-R-R. H-A-N-K.

Richards: Can we call your wife, Hank?

Carr: I'm trying to get them to get a hold of her, so I can talk to her now. That's why I'm fixin' to get off the phone, in case she calls. In case they're bringing her in to try to talk me out of this. She's the only one that can. I know you're trying, I appreciate that.

Richards: That lady has nothing to do with any of this, and, you know, she's treated you well.

Carr: She's only served her purpose. She's just keeping me alive long to where I can see my wife.

Richards: Well, again, let her out and ...

Carr: I just wanted to tell my story. My son was an accident. We don't keep loaded guns around the kids. That gun was supposed to be empty. I don't understand what happened.

Richards: A lot of people are going to be asking a lot of questions for a long time about this particular day in the history of Tampa Bay. Hank, let that lady out and then follow her with your hands up. What's your wife's name, Hank?

Carr: Bernice Marie Bowen

Richards: Bernice. Let that lady out and then follow her with your hands up and the situation probably can come to a ...

Carr: Right after I talk to Bernice, I'll probably give her the guns and let her go out and then I'll just lay on the floor here and they can come and get me. But for right now, I want to talk to my wife before I do anything.

Richards: This situation could end peacefully, Hank. Please. Please. OK?

Carr: Ya'll got the story?

Richards: I think we do.

Carr: Thanks, buddy.

Richards: OK.

Carr: Bye.


Tragic, violent day

By Sarah Huntley, Sean Lengell, Ace Atkins and Bill Thompson

The Tampa Tribune

May 20, 1998

Five people are dead, including three officers, in a three-county spree of violence that started with a child's death.

It started with the fatal shooting of a 4-year-old boy and exploded into a multicounty spree of violence that left two veteran police detectives, a rookie state trooper and the suspected triggerman dead Tuesday.

Almost 10 hours after the boy's death, police said the man suspected of the murderous rampage died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after officers bombarded a gasoline station he was holed up in with tear gas and explosive devices.

In a disturbing radio interview, suspected triggerman Hank Earl Carr claimed he shot the Tampa detectives after wriggling free from handcuffs. The trooper was shot to death after stopping a truck Carr had stolen after shooting the officers, police said.

Killed were Detectives Randy Bell, 44, and Rick Childers, 46, and Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks, 23, who had been on the job only since August.

Carr, 30, claimed in the radio interview that he was angered when police called him a liar after questioning him about the shooting death of the boy, Joey Bennett, in his home.

Carr claimed the boy was his son and also told police he was Joseph Lee Bennett. Neither was true.

Bennett is a 33-year-old roofer who lives in Watertown, Ohio. Reached by telephone at his home, he said he saw his children, including Joey, at Thanksgiving, when they came to visit their maternal grandmother in Marietta, Ohio.

''That was the last time I heard from them,'' he said, his voice breaking. ''I still have their Christmas presents.''

The incredible tale of violence began with Joey's death.

Police began questioning Carr Tuesday morning after he and the boy's mother brought Joey to a fire station at the corner of Nebraska Avenue and Hanna Street.

The couple pulled up to the station at 9:50 a.m. and carried in the child, who had been shot once in the head, according to Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade. The boy's mother, later identified as Bernice Bowen, 24, pleaded with firefighters to help him.

But Joey wasn't breathing and had no pulse, Wade said. Firefighters tried to resuscitate him; paramedics arrived and pronounced him dead.

''They hooked him up to the monitor, but there was nothing they could do,'' Wade said.

Hearing of the boy's death, Carr jumped into his car and raced back to his apartment at 709 1/2 E. Crenshaw St. Officers caught up with him there.

He and Bowen told police the child had been dragging a loaded, high-powered rifle behind him when it discharged. The account raised suspicions because Joey was shot in the head. But then something happened that made detectives even more wary.

About 10:30 a.m., while detectives were talking to him, Carr bolted. With officers on his tail, he ran through several yards that border Nebraska Avenue. A few minutes into the pursuit, Cpl. Brian O'Connor spotted feet poking out from a clump of bushes along Norfolk Street, less than a quarter-mile from the couple's apartment.

Police arrested Carr there and took him to headquarters for questioning.

''We were treating this as an accidental shooting, but then all of a sudden the guy just took off,'' said police spokesman Steve Cole. ''That put a whole new perspective on our investigation. That's a little bit squirrelly.''

Cole said Carr provided different accounts of how the shooting occurred. In Carr's radio interview, he said he may have hit the butt of the rifle against the wall, causing it to discharge accidentally.

Neighbors said the apartment, one of four in a white, two-story building behind 709 E. Crenshaw St., was a constant source of loud music, gunfire and police activity.

''There was always noise over there,'' said Letha Elder, who lives across the street. ''You can imagine, but it's not for us to say.''

As she held her 5-month-old granddaughter, Elder said her heart went out to the dead child.

''I can't even feel sorry for the parents right now. I feel for that little boy,'' she said.

Former neighbors Charles Campbell and Catherine Phillips said Carr, known to them as Earl and ``Boo,'' was armed nearly all the time.

''It was like a constant thing,'' Phillips said. ''He'd carry the guns around in his pants and sit out there shooting squirrels.``

In January, they said, Carr dropped a pistol on the floor of the apartment. The gun went off, sending a bullet through the floor to a room below, but no one was injured.

Concerned about the weapons and possible abuse to Joey and his 5-year-old sister, Kayla, Campbell called the state Department of Children and Families.

Agency spokesman Tom Jones confirmed the department received two reports of problems at the household. Caseworkers visited but could not substantiate the allegations, he said.

Earlier this month, Joey's mother agreed to accept help from the department, but the agency had not finished putting the services in place, Jones said.

After questioning Carr at headquarters, the detectives took him back to his home to ``walk through'' the shooting scene. He then was placed back in the detectives' car, where - Carr said later on the radio - he wriggled free of one handcuff and grabbed a detective's gun.

He said he shot the detective who was driving and then shot the other as the man tried to dive over the front seat to grab him.

The commotion caught the attention of neighbors in Tampa Heights. Thomas Wilson, 60, ran to the front of his home as his girlfriend pointed to the Ford sedan in the middle of the Floribraska Avenue exit ramp from Interstate 275.

When Wilson reached the car, the sight behind the blood-splattered glass made him turn away. Two men lay slouched in the front seat.

''The driver was leaning against the door and the other was lying across his seat like he was reaching into the back,'' Wilson said. He knew both officers were dead.

Authorities say the triggerman then carjacked a white, 1997 Ford Ranger and headed north on I-275 toward Pasco County.

Tim Bain, a 20-year-old college student from Tampa, was on the interstate en route to his valet job at Saddlebrook resort when he saw the white truck and a state trooper whiz by about 2:30 p.m. Just south of State Road 54, he saw the trooper stop the truck at the Wesley Chapel exit.

Bain said his car and others traveling onto the exit ramp stopped as the showdown took place in front of them.

A man with a rifle jumped out of the truck and walked to the cruiser, Bain said. Sitting in his parked car, Bain didn't see the shooting but heard a gunshot and glass shattering. A moment passed. Another gunshot, more splintered glass.

Then, strangely, another white pickup truck came flying past Bain onto the exit ramp and apparently tried to run down the gunman - actually clipping the gunman's truck, Bain said.

As the gunman got back in his truck and sped off, Bain jumped out of his own car and noticed the trooper's cruiser, with the passenger window shot out, rolling down the ramp.

Bain said he managed to reach into the cruiser and put it in park. But it kept moving, so he had to jump inside to slam on the brakes.

''I'll always remember his face,'' he said of Crooks, a rookie trooper. ''It was like he was looking back at me. When I had that car stopped and I looked at him, I couldn't believe it. It was like something you see in the movies.''

Bain said the trooper had been shot in the head.

''I tried to talk to him,'' Bain said. ''I said, `Sir, you OK?' But there was no motion, nothing.''

As the chase headed north, Hernando County sheriff's deputies were waiting when Carr crossed the county line about 3 p.m. Officers placed a device used to puncture tires, a Stinger, across the highway. Carr ran over it.

Carr shot at and hit the sheriff's helicopter. The bullet went through the floorboard near the pilot, who wasn't injured.

It was unclear why he turned into the Shell station on State Road 50 just off I-75. But witnesses said his truck came barreling off the exit ramp and screeched to a halt in a drainage ditch beside the building.

He popped off a couple of shots as he ran into the station, witnesses said, where he took 27-year-old Stephanie Diane Kramer of Dade City hostage.

For the next 4 1/2 hours, no shots were fired. Hernando deputies negotiated with Carr. Tampa police brought Bowen, the woman he called his wife, and she spoke to him by telephone.

About 7:30 p.m., Carr released Kramer by the front door. Crouching, she ran to a line of police cruisers and was whisked away by officers.

Minutes later, Hernando sheriff's deputies fired five canisters of tear gas at the building. The Tampa police bomb squad set off two breach charges simultaneously, one against the back wall of the station and one against the side wall. The triangular-shaped charge, designed to blow holes in walls, tore a hole in the rear wall.

When the gas had cleared, officers approached. They said they found Carr's body against the back of the building where the explosives went off. He had shot himself in the head, they said, though they weren't certain exactly when he died.

Carr was armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle and two handguns.

One other casualty of the day's terror was a truck driver who got caught in the fray along I-75. Christopher Espinosa, 56, of Brooksville took a bullet in the shoulder while behind the wheel of a J & L Trucking Co. tractor-trailer.

Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said Espinosa was one of two truckers fired upon by Carr, who was trying to get around them on I-75.

Espinosa was admitted to Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill. By 10:15 p.m., he was out of surgery and in stable condition, a nursing supervisor said. Further surgery, scheduled for later this week, is needed for a complete recovery.


Gunman unlocked cuffs with own key

By Sarah Huntley, Kevin Walker and Jacqueline Soteropoulos

The Tampa Tribune

May 21, 1998

Hank Earl Carr unlocked the door to his three-county shooting spree Tuesday with a key anyone can buy for as little as $1.50.

Carr used a cheap master key to escape from handcuffs while riding in the the back of a detective's car, police confirmed Wednesday.

After killing three officers and holing up in a Hernando County gas station, he revealed the secret of his escape to his hostage, 27-year-old Stephanie Kramer.

Carr gave her something to take to his roommate and girlfriend, Bernice Bowen.

''She said he pulled a key out of his pocket, took his necklace off and put it on it, and then gave it to her to take to his wife,'' said Paula Hill, the mother of Kramer's fiance, Christopher Hill.

Kramer, who did not wish to speak, stayed Wednesday night at the Hill home near Dade City. ''She can't even talk about it without breaking down and crying,'' Hill said.

Standard handcuff keys can be bought at any police equipment store. Prices range from $1.50 to $7, and information about them is available on the Internet.

Carr apparently anticipated encounters with law enforcement.

''That was his M.O.,'' Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder said. ''He always had a handcuff key with him.''

One of the slain detectives was caught on videotape earlier in the day scolding Carr for trying to slip out of his handcuffs. Television footage showed one handcuff partially removed, with Carr claiming it slipped off because it was wet.

Sitting in the back seat of the detectives' car, he grabbed the 9mm pistol of the driver, Detective Ricky Childers. He fatally shot Childers and Detective Randy Bell, who was in the front passenger seat.

After carjacking a Pep Boys truck and leading police on a chase, he drove north into Pasco County, where he shot and killed Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks, 23.

Crooks drove up behind Carr on an Interstate 75 exit ramp - where traffic was stopped - and Carr jumped out of his stolen truck and opened fire.

Crooks was killed immediately.

The killings Tuesday were noted as the worst day of police bloodshed in more than two decades in Florida. Not since 1976 have three police officers been killed in one day.

In that case, three Metro-Dade detectives were killed by a fugitive.

As the pursuit neared an end, Carr holed up in a Hernando County gas station, taking Kramer hostage. He eventually released her and killed himself with a gun.

The killings triggered a day of mourning across the state. Gov. Lawton Chiles ordered American flags flown at half-staff at all state buildings. And in Tampa, the public mourned the fallen officers by leaving flowers, cards and lighted candles at police headquarters.

Carr had a previous violent run-in with police.

When Sarasota police officers attempted to detain him in October 1988 on suspicion of drug possession, Carr hit an officer in the stomach when he attempted to handcuff him.

Four officers had to wrestle with him to get the handcuffs on, reports said.

Some say Carr's home life was violent, too.

He lived at 709 1/2 E. Crenshaw St. in Tampa with Bowen and her two children, Joey and Kayla.

It was the fatal shooting of 4-year-old Joey on Tuesday morning, which Carr claims was an accident, that set Tuesday's events into motion.

Acquaintances said there were many signs the couple had problems.

Manny Vicente, who owned the couple's apartment, said Carr started living there about a year ago and Bowen moved in with the kids two weeks later.

''She was always scared of him,'' Vicente said. ''She should have gotten out of that relationship a long time ago. Everybody told her that, but she was afraid.''

Bowen worked on and off as a dancer at the Starlite Lounge strip club on Nebraska Avenue for eight months in 1996 and 1997, said manager Dennis Valdez.

Some nights, Bowen came to work with black eyes and bruises on her neck and arm - marks she carefully covered with makeup, Valdez said.

''She comes in, she's half beat up,'' Valdez said. ''She was absolutely and positively terrified of him, and I think she loved him.''

Valdez said Bowen feared Carr would kill her.

Vicente said Carr's behavior - and his penchant for weapons - unnerved him.

''I was afraid of the guy,'' he said. ''I'd go collect rent and he'd have guns in his pants. He was so crazy I couldn't really threaten him.''

Evelyn Sacks, his former girlfriend in Ohio and mother of two of his children, told similar tales of abuse.

''He would beat me constantly,'' she said. ''I'm glad he's dead. Live like that, die like that.''

Suspicion also abounds that Carr didn't confine his abusive behaviors to adults.

The state Department of Family Services had investigated Carr on child abuse allegations. However, the state declined to release full details of its investigation.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's crime spree, the future of Bowen's daughter, Kayla, is uncertain. Both Kayla's mother and grandmother contacted the state Wednesday, wanting custody of Kayla, said Tom Jones, a spokesman for the social service agency's district office.

Kayla currently is in a Hillsborough County foster home.

On Tuesday morning, Carr claimed that when he started to put a semiautomatic rifle away, it accidentally went off and shot Joey in the head.

Joey died after Carr and Bowen took him to a nearby fire station.

Police questioned Carr at his home, where he at first appeared cooperative and then tried to run away. Later, after officers had taken him to the station, he offered to return to the house and walk them through the crime scene.

Police spokesman Steve Cole speculated that Carr tried to gain the detectives' good will by admitting he lied about the boy's shooting and then offering to do the walk-through. Carr had been patted down for weapons, but a closer search that might have turned up the handcuff key wouldn't have come unless he was arrested.

Childers was driving when Carr wrested the pistol from his shoulder harness under his left arm, Cole said. Carr must have reached between the driver's seat and door to slip the gun out, he said.

After shooting the detectives and trooper Crooks, Carr also fired at two truck drivers.

One of the drivers, 56-year-old Christopher Espinosa, will have to undergo more surgery to rebuild his upper left arm. Surgeons removed a bullet and two fragments from Espinosa's arm Tuesday but will have to repair the shattered bone with pins.

The other truck driver, Kevin Luke, 26, of Corbin, Ky., narrowly escaped serious injury when the bullet struck the headrest of his seat. He had minor glass cuts and has returned to Kentucky.

Pasco sheriff's deputies described a frantic chase through their county, with Carr shooting wildly at pursuing officers. In all, two Pasco deputies suffered relatively minor injuries, while two cars were heavily damaged. The cars can be replaced quickly.

But the human healing process will be a long one, Tampa Mayor Dick Greco said.

"There are so many people calling and asking what can they do to help,'' Greco said. "I've never seen anything like this in my life.''

Victor Romero, 42, an engineer who works downtown, summed up what many were feeling Wednesday as he stood near a memorial for the slain officers at police headquarters.

"Oh, yes, yes, Carr got what he deserved.''

Daniel Castillo, a former officer who is now a defense attorney, said: ''I guess he just wanted to go straight to hell and didn't want to stand in line with anybody.''


Negotiator expected a last death

By Jim Sloan and Neil Johnson

The Tampa Tribune

May 22, 1998

Negotiators said it was clear from the start that Hank Earl Carr was not going to give up after killing three law enforcement officers.

Sheriff's Maj. Richard Nugent didn't know much about the man holed up in the sunbaked Shell station on Interstate 75.

He didn't know that Hank Earl Carr had only two bullets left, and that he would save those to take his own life.

But Nugent, whose job was to convince Carr to release his hostage and give up, knew one thing: The standoff probably was going to end with yet another death.

''We truly believed that he wasn't going to give up easily,'' said Nugent, who, as second in command of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, was in charge at Tuesday's standoff.

''He was either going to kill himself - which he did - or he was going to come out and force us to do it.''

Nugent detailed Thursday the tense hours his hostage team spent on the telephone with Carr, who killed veteran Tampa police Detectives Randy Bell and Ricky Childers and rookie Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks, and may have killed his girlfriend's 4-year-old son.

While Nugent recounted the activity outside the station, Stephanie Kramer, the 27-year-old clerk who spent four terrifying hours as Carr's hostage, gave detectives an inside look.

Carr had dashed into the Shell station Tuesday afternoon after police chased him up Interstate 75 as bullets flew.

When Nugent's team arrived to set up a command post at the Day's Inn nearby, they knew only that Carr had at least one hostage.

The first job was to get Carr on the telephone and talking, and it was frustrating.

''He either hung up or the line was busy,'' Nugent said. ''He was either calling someone else or someone else was trying to call him.''

Negotiators quickly found themselves competing for Carr's attention with WFLA, 970 AM radio, which called Carr for an on-air interview.

''It really slows down our ability to start to gain his trust,'' Nugent said. ''A lot of dynamics are going on. The sooner we start talking to him and build a rapport, the better off everyone is.

''You want to force him to talk to you, no one else. I sure as hell didn't want to have to negotiate through the media.''

Carr also called his ex-girlfriend in Ohio and fielded calls from the St. Petersburg Times.

Finally, negotiators had had enough. They contacted the local telephone company, which changed the incoming number at the Shell station - and set it up so Carr couldn't make outside calls.

''He was really quite open on the phone,'' Nugent said. ''He would go from very calm to saying he was in pain to getting quite agitated to calming back down.''

Carr had been shot in the buttocks during the chase. The wound was worse than he thought. An autopsy later showed the .40-caliber bullet was pressing against his spine.

''I was surprised the guy could move,'' Nugent said. ''He was running on adrenaline until he got into the gas station, and that's when the pain set in.''

His only demand was to speak to his girlfriend, Bernice Bowen, whom he referred to as his wife. A Tampa Police Department helicopter rushed her to the scene.

''Our general rule of thumb is, we don't do that,'' Nugent said. ''You're taking a chance that the person may be the reason the suspect did what he did. They could set the guy off again.''

With negotiators ready to cut her off if things went sour, Carr talked with Bowen on the telephone. She urged him repeatedly to surrender, Nugent said.

''She did a real fine job,'' he said. ''She was pretty good at it.''

But Carr wouldn't budge. Nor would he let Kramer go.

''He realized early on that the hostage was his ticket and that the only control he had was keeping her,'' Nugent said.

But negotiators were encouraged when Carr vowed he wouldn't harm Kramer.

''It's a good sign any time they repeatedly tell you they will not hurt the person they are holding,'' Nugent said. ``It's not to say he wouldn't change his mind, but it shows we had a good chance of getting her out.''

At 5:30, Carr started telling negotiators he would let Kramer go, Nugent said. ''Then it was, `No, let me talk to my wife again.' Then he said he'd let her go at 7 p.m. That was about 15 minutes to 7, and 7 p.m. came and went.''

Inside, Carr was spilling his soul to Kramer, telling her how he had shot the two detectives, how his boy died and how he planned to die. Carr also had fatally shot the trooper.

''One [gun] was empty and two bullets were left,'' Kramer told investigators. ''He said he purposely saved two for himself.

''He told me he was gonna kill himself. He could not live with the thought of killing his child.''

Carr also called his mother, told her what had happened and that he hadn't meant to do it, Kramer said.

Carr then made a long-distance call - to an old girlfriend in Ohio.

When Evelyn Sacks received the call she thought it was a joke. It wasn't unusual for them to talk; they had spoken often over the last few months. He even asked her to come to Tampa so he could spend time with their two children, John Paul, 2 and Tamara, 4.

She decided not to come, and Tuesday she knew she had made the right decision.

''He said he was in trouble and needed a favor,'' she said. ''I said I didn't have any money I could send him. Then he said he wanted to take care of Tamara.''

Carr told her the events leading up to taking a hostage at the Shell station.

Sacks wouldn't let Carr talk to his daughter, but changed her mind after seeing a SWAT team outside the station. She knew she had little time.

A local television station offered to broadcast her plea to her former boyfriend. She wanted him to ''get his mind right and see what's important.''

Meanwhile, Nugent said, Kramer was doing everything a hostage should.

''She kept her composure, kept him calm - that's called self-preservation,'' he said.

When Carr finally agreed to release her, Nugent said, negotiators found that a bond had formed between the two. That's not unusual in such situations, he said, where hostages and captors begin to identify with each other under intense pressure.

''That's what you want to have happen with the hostage taker, but it goes both ways,'' Nugent said. ``You could sense that she was concerned about this guy. She had spent a lot of time in there with him.

''We had to get a little forceful with her to get her to go.''

But in her interview, Kramer said she left the first chance she got, turning around once because she was afraid Carr would shoot her in the back.

''The woman [negotiator] I was talking to on the phone just said, `You're getting too comfortable in there.' Well, excuse me. He's got a gun,'' she told investigators.

Before he freed her, Carr handed Kramer a letter to Bowen and her daughter, Kayla Bennett. He also gave her two photos of the girl, pulled off his shirt and emptied $180 from his wallet, handing both to her and telling her to give them to his girlfriend.

He pulled a handcuff key from his pocket, put it on a gold necklace and asked her to give it to Bernice Bowen - and not tell police about it.

''He said `This is how I got out of the handcuffs.' ''

Finally, Kramer said, Carr told her ``Go, tell my wife that I love her. Give her a hug.' Pray for me and my baby. Now go.' ''

Carr's compassion didn't extend to the three officers he killed, Nugent said. The killer expressed no remorse about the deaths, even making callous comments about the dead police detectives.

He never mentioned the shooting of Crooks, gunned down when he tried to stop Carr on I-75.

''That was really cold,'' Nugent said. ''He had to get out of his vehicle to do that one.''

Carr's uncaring attitude made it tough for negotiators to stay detached and professional, he said.

''On one hand, you know he killed a child and two detectives; on the other, you are fighting that emotion, trying to stay professional.

''But you don't do anyone any good if you get emotional. After it's all done you can say. `Oh my God, that could have been my kid.' ''

With Kramer safe, police planned their next move. It was obvious Carr couldn't be talked out, so they prepared for an assault.

With cars spread out all over the gas station lot, Nugent said there was a risk that Carr could come charging out, guns blazing and grab another vehicle.

''We sure as hell didn't want this to go back mobile,'' he said. ''We were not going to allow him to leave that store.''

Marksmen fired tear gas canisters inside, and the Tampa Bomb Squad set off two charges to blow holes in the store.

''We didn't want a frontal assault,'' Nugent said. ''Then he knows where you're coming from, and he's got you in a tunnel.''

Carr also had the safety of the clerk's bulletproof booth.

When officers charged through the haze of tear gas and dust kicked up by the explosions, they found Carr's body and two pistols. Carr had shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun, an autopsy concluded.

When it was all over, officers tried to make sense of the experience.

''This isn't like where somebody yells `cut' and you drive away,'' Nugent said. ''It took awhile for that to sink with to all these guys.

''They were still standing there. This was still surreal to them.''


Trooper laid to rest

By Janis Froelich

The Tampa Tribune

May 23, 1998

Friday's memorial service for Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James "Brad'' Crooks stretched from the breadth of a community to the heart of his fiancee.

Nadine LaMonte, engaged to marry the 23-year-old trooper in November, bit her lip and wept when the symbolic last radio call for Crooks was broadcast.

LaMonte was not alone in her grief.

Some 2,500 people came to honor Crooks. On the force less than a year, he became the 37th Florida trooper to die in the line of duty.

His mother was handed a flag that had flown at the academy where Crooks earned the respect of fellow cadets with his hard work. Another flag was given to LaMonte before an honor guard loaded his casket into a hearse.

Crooks was but one of the victims in Tuesday's carnage that began with the shooting death of a 4-year-old boy, the son of Hank Earl Carr's girlfriend. Carr was taken into custody, but later grabbed a gun and killed two Tampa police detectives. Carr escaped in a stolen truck, later killing Crooks. He eventually killed himself in a gas station.

Friday, in this tiny - population 7,000 - sugar cane town about 90 miles from Miami, they came to say goodbye. They came in hats and church clothes. They came in jeans and running shoes. But mostly, they came in uniform. More than half of the crowd were members of Florida's vast law enforcement family.

In the white-and-orange John B. Boy Auditorium, the sweet scent of dozens of funeral sprays and bouquets mixed with the afternoon heat. Many in the auditorium's capacity crowd, especially pregnant women, had to momentarily step outside for the breeze.

Crooks was the first University of South Florida intern to "gut it out'' through the intense Highway Patrol training, Col. Charles Hall told a packed civic auditorium.

Outside after the dust settled on an emotional farewell which included a 21-gun salute, Tampa Mayor Dick Greco said of the sea of officers: ``Everyone in uniform was seeing their funeral re-created today.''

"It's not easy,'' said a drawn-looking Maj. Morris Leggett, who was Crooks' commander.

Leggett led more than a dozen troopers in patrol vehicles to Clewiston, where schoolchildren lined the streets.

Patrolman R.L. Sheridan of the Tampa Police Department summed up the feelings of law officers around the state.

"All of Florida's law enforcement would be here today if it weren't for the totality of the situation,'' he said. Funeral services for the two slain Tampa detectives are today.

Throughout the town, flags flew at half-staff. Standing in the front of the 15-man police department, Investigator Mike McVey said, ''All line people are used to the danger of the job. When you get in that car, you better be prepared to say goodbye.''

At Clewiston High School where students were dismissed at 2:15 for the 3 p.m. service, Crooks was remembered as ''fun loving'' and as ''a very nice kid.'' He played clarinet in the band. He was editor of a computer class newsletter. But most of all, the 1993 graduate wanted to be a police officer.

It wasn't easy. Teacher Lonzo Griffith remembered how Crooks fretted over "his size being acceptable.'' Griffith said after Crooks went to USF and became a security guard, ``more and more Brad got in shape and began believing he could do it.'' He eventually lost 75 pounds.

The teacher's fondest memory of Crooks was when the teen, decked out in a cowboy outfit, rode his horse to school for Spirit Week.

At the funeral home, fiancee LaMonte, flanked by Crooks' parents and grandmothers, bid farewell as the flag-draped casket was lifted into a hearse.

Bagpipes wailed two choruses of "Amazing Grace'' before 11 police helicopters flew overhead.

Then came the haunting radio transmission that Trooper Crooks, I.D. 1777, was "10-7'' - the police code for out of service.

The transmission implored, "We ask for a moment of silence. Unit 1777 is out of service.''


The life of Hank Earl Carr

By Ace Atkins and Sarah Huntley - The Tampa Tribune

May 22, 1998

Hank Earl Carr is remembered as a violent man with a penchant for motorcycles, guns and women.

Evelyn Sacks will never forget the night she fell for Hank Earl Carr.

It was Nov. 15, 1992, and it was snowing outside the Four Seasons Bar on Second Street in the river town of Marietta, Ohio. Amid the bikers and blue-collar workers hunkered over Budweisers, Carr approached her and said, ``You have the most elegant neck.''

She now recalls it as the worst moment of her life.

It set in motion a series of events that changed her life. In the year that followed, Carr infected her with a venereal disease while she was pregnant with his daughter, took money from her paychecks to supplement small-time marijuana deals and repeatedly beat her.

But she kept forgiving him - like the other women in Carr's life.

''I guess I found him charming - from the neck down.''

Sacks helped draw a clearer picture of the man who killed two police detectives, a state trooper and a 4-year-old boy last Tuesday.

Carr never held a job in Marietta. He liked getting attention by performing back flips for free drinks at local bars. He was banned from virtually every bar in town.

He liked heavy metal music, pro wrestling and video games. Carr had three tattoos: a spider on his right shoulder, a spider on his chest and a skull with fire on his left shoulder.

He could draw comic book characters like his hero Wolverine, a slashing-claw crimefighter. Sacks would bring his pencils, notebooks and beloved Wolverine comics to Carr during his frequent jail stays. He believed his talent for drawing would make him a millionaire.

He confided to Sacks that he was a werewolf in another life. And to Sacks that revelation made sense - his temper could flare across his face like a thunderstorm over the Ohio River.

Little is known about Carr's childhood - perhaps because it ended early. Carr told prison officials in 1986 that he left home when he was 14 ``to be on his own.''

Born in Atlanta on Jan. 31, 1968, Carr had a younger sister, a half-brother, a stepbrother and a stepsister. His parents split when he was 2. Carr remained with his mom, but said he visited his father, a retired truck driver, in North Carolina.

Parts of his younger years were spent living in Englewood, Fla. He was enrolled briefly at Englewood Elementary School. In 1984, he attended Lemon Bay High School, but was there only 22 days.

Carr told prison officials he had a good relationship with his father and his mother, a nurse who later remarried. His mother, Gail Cox, now lives in Tampa.

Sacks said Carr loved his family so much that the only times she saw him cry was when his daughter was born, when his stepfather died and when his sister miscarried.

Carr told officials he was involved with a 4-H club and spent his free time swimming and hanging out with his girlfriend. Under honors and achievements, Carr listed football and arm wrestling.

A year after he left home, Carr was arrested for stealing a car. He was 15.

At 17, he was charged with battery. He was declared a juvenile delinquent, but received no sentence.

Carr was 18 when he was sentenced to prison for the first time. Convicted of burglary, theft and forgery in Sarasota County, he was supposed to spend two years behind bars. Released after 1 1/2 years, he was placed under house arrest.

The 18-year-old acknowledged using marijuana on weekends and experimenting with cocaine, and characterized himself as a moderate drinker.

Despite his learning problems, Carr was resourceful - and cagey. In December 1987, Hillsborough jail deputies found a 1-inch Master lock hidden in his pillow. The lock came from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Transportation Division. Almost 10 years later, following Carr's fatal rampage Tuesday, police discovered Carr was able to escape his handcuffs with a key hidden in his pocket.

Even behind bars, Carr made it clear he was in charge. While Carr was in a Hillsborough County jail, deputies noted he appeared to be ``the boss.'' Carr once threatened to kill a cellmate if someone didn't deposit money into his account. Another time, he slugged an inmate in the face for changing the TV channel.

Carr moved to Marietta with his former girlfriend, Belinda Simpson, in 1992. Months later, Simpson filed a restraining order to keep Carr away from her and her son, 9, and daughter, 5.

Carr once beat the children for jumping on furniture, court records show. He hit the boy hard enough to cause bleeding from his nose and mouth.

Carr agreed to counseling but asked the judge for Simpson to return his dragon paintings. He never completed the counseling, thrown out for violent behavior.

Women - even those he beat - were among his biggest allies. Over and over, they described him as a charmer, a real-life Romeo.

Earlier this week, Kathy Stevens of St. Petersburg, who had a son with Carr, called her ex-boyfriend a ''great romantic'' and recalled being wooed with beach walks and roses.

Stevens' best friend, Audra Kersten of Tampa, said the relationship ''was kinda like fairy tale love.'' But once the women were won over, she said, things weren't always rosy.

Kersten maintained contact with Carr over the years and sometimes visited him and his last girlfriend, Bernice Bowen. It was no secret he beat Bowen, she said.

''It seems the loves of his life, he disrespected,'' she said.

Around the bars in Marietta, the image of a more shadowy Carr remains. They remember the man called Boo who once bit off a hunk of a man's ear.

"He was lucky I gave it back so they could sew it on,'' he later bragged.

Kelly Beaver, once Bowen's neighbor, doesn't like to talk about his encounter with Carr. He wears an upper row of false teeth thanks to the man's punch.

Beaver still doesn't know what he did to make Carr mad; the two never spoke. ``I got bad vibes off that dude when I first met him.''

At the Four Seasons, where Carr sometimes sold marijuana, bartender Bobby Antill recalls the night Carr was so angry with Sacks he ripped the taps from a stainless steel keg.

"He could be sitting here and be talkin' like this ... a second later he would turn on you,'' said bar patron Michael Colyer.

Bonnie Chafin, 59, mother of one of Carr's few male friends in Ohio, remembers a more polite Carr who would brag about her 12-bean soup and carried a battered brown suitcase in his car trunk. It was filled with a picture album and his few clothes. He told her he was always ready to leave town.

Sacks and Carr later moved in with Bowen. But Sacks soon figured out Carr was having an affair with Bowen and left with the children she had with Carr.

Bowen offered Carr a motorcycle if he would leave town with her. His legal troubles were mounting and there were warrants for his arrest. The pair took off to South Dakota, going on a spending spree with money she made from the sale of a house. They even bought Sacks a used car to make up for their deceit.

Meanwhile, Bowen's mother, Connie, watched her children - Kayla and Joey. At a motorcycle convention in Sturgis, S.D., Carr bought his Harley. But he later sold the prized bike and secretly returned to Marietta on Jan. 28, 1996.

Carr went back to Sacks, meeting her in a Kroger grocery store parking lot. They left with their two children for an 18-day spree, spending the remainder of Bowen's money. They celebrated daughter Tamara's birthday on a route of truck stops and motels.

Carr was still wanted in Marietta for drug charges. Carr bought Tamara toys and a 2 gallon bucket of bubbles.

It was one of the last times Sacks talked to Carr. Two-and-a-half years later, he would call her one last time - from the Shell station where he was holed up with a hostage.

Sacks believes the violence and distrust of authority was all about power. While in Tampa, if he didn't like the clothes his girlfriend was wearing, he ripped them off.

And days were rarely dull in the dusty lot outside 709 1/2 E. Crenshaw St. The music was loud; the gunfire, louder.

One visitor recalled a near-miss two weeks before Tuesday's shootings. Carr was on edge, worried about a man who had been hassling one of the female residents.

When a car pulled up, Carr went barreling down the stairs, armed with a loaded shotgun and two pistols at his hips. It turned out to be someone else.

Although Carr never kept a job for long in Tampa, cash wasn't much of a problem. There were rumors he was again peddling drugs or stolen property, but the most likely candidate was guns. Even those who didn't know Carr well knew he had guns to sell.

When he was low on money, Carr disappeared. His landlord, Manny Vicente, said he would be gone for three or four days, then return with a wad of cash.

"When I asked him where he got the money, he said he made a run,'' Vicente said. "I didn't ask anything else.''


Day of shootings

9:50 a.m. Tuesday. Joey Bennet, 4, is brought to a Tampa fire station by Hank Earl Carr and the boy's mother, Bernice Bowen. The boy had a bullet in his head. Bowen pleads with firefighters to save her son. They try, but Joey dies.

Next several minutes. Carr speeds away from the station, returning to the apartment where Joey was shot. When police catch up to him, Carr tells them the shooting was an accident. Police treat it that way.

10:30 a.m. Carr bolts from the police, raising suspicions. He is quickly caught and taken to the Tampa Police Department, where he is questioned. Police detectives Ricky Childers and Randy Bell return to the apartment with Carr. They walk through the scene.

2 p.m. While returning to the police station, Carr gets out of his handcuffs and grabs Childers' gun. He shoots Childers, who is driving. He turns the gun on Bell as the officer tries to dive into the back seat. Carr hops out of the car and carjacks a white Ford Ranger. He heads north on Interstate 275 into Pasco County.

2:30 p.m. Just south of State Road 54 Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks stops the Ford Ranger. Carr gets out of the truck with a rifle. He shoots Crooks while the rookie officer is talking to his lieutenant on the police radio. As Carr moves back to the stolen truck, a witness sees another truck try to run him down, but Carr speeds off.

3 p.m. Carr crosses the Hernando County line where officers are waiting. He runs over a device that punctures his tires. He fires wildly, hitting a sheriff's helicopter. He pulls off the interstate at State Road 50 and drives into a Shell gasoline station. He shoots at police as he runs into the building where he takes a hostage, Stephanie Diane Kramer.

Next four hours. Carr stays in the station. No shots are fired, but he has plenty to say. Radio reporters talk to him, and the conversation is broadcast on television. He tells his story. He talks to Bowen.

7:30 p.m. Carr lets Kramer go. She runs from the building to the safety of the police. Hernando sheriff's officers fire five cannisters of tear gas at the building. The Tampa bomb squad sets off charges designed to blow holes in the walls. When the gas clears, Carr is dead. He has shot himself in the head.


Carr, Hank Earl

(d. 1998)


DATE(S): 1997-98


VICTIMS: Four+ suspected

MO: Shot three lawmen in May 1998; previously boasted of beating an unknown man to death

DISPOSITION: Suicide by gunshot, May 19, 1998



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