Sheriff: Man Did ‘Suicide by Cop’ After Wife’s Recent Passing from Cancer

The death of a 60-year-old man in Florida appeared to be suicide by cop, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd on Friday.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this was a classic–classic–suicide by cop,” he said.

Kenneth Layton had called 911 to say that there was an armed man prowling outside his home, according to the sheriff’s account. He remained on the line while the deputies were coming to the scene, but Layton was “hyperventilating,” Judd said. Dispatch told him to be claim, and that the responding deputy would arrive soon, according to the sheriff’s story.

Judd claimed that the deputy arrived at the scene, knocked on the door, but no one answered. Eventually the door swung open but no one was there. The deputy stepped in to find that Layton was pointing a handgun at him, Judd said. This law enforcement officer repeatedly screamed at him to put the gun down, but he didn’t, the sheriff said.

The deputy initially attributed this behavior to the homeowner being frightened, so he backed away from the door and identified himself. He backed out of the door, around the door, and back around the patrol car, Judd said. The deputy continued to order him to put the gun down, but Layton pointed it at him, so the law enforcement officer fired once, Judd said.

Layton was fatally shot in the chest, Judd said.

Deputies were told that Layton had lost his wife to cancer about two months before this, according to the sheriff. The night before his death, he told neighbors at a dinner that he missed her, Judd said. Deputies said investigator had had a preliminary conversation with the son.

“It’s my understanding at this time that the son said that yes, he was afraid that his dad might hurt himself because he’s so distraught over the loss of his wife,” Judd said. “This is a horrible event to occur to anyone,” adding that the deputy involved has to live with this for the rest of his life. According to Judd, however, the deputy said that it was “abundantly evident that [Layton] was going to make me shoot him.” The law enforcement officer said he had no choice but to shoot when the other man pointed the gun at him, Judd said.

The sheriff said they are still working to verify the story about the wife having cancer.

The investigation continues. The deputy is on administrative leave, per protocol, Judd said. Their homicide and administrative team continue to look into the case. Prosecutors and medical examiners will make separate probes.

[Screengrab via Polk County Sheriff’s Office]

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