Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office school security deputy Terry Strawn shot and killed three family members and then took his own life, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said Wednesday.
Strawn, 58, shot his wife, 54-year-old Theresa Strawn, and his granddaughter, 6-year-old Londyn Strawn, at his Plant City home. He then traveled to the Plant City residence of his daughter, 32-year-old Courtney Strawn, and shot her. All three victims died as a result.
Strawn killed himself near Plant City High School after he went onto the sheriff’s office radio and said he had caused harm to his family, according to Chronister.
The investigation into the murder-suicide is ongoing.
“Today I stand in front of you with an extremely heavy heart, saddened and disheartened about the events that occurred early this morning,” Sheriff Chronister told several reporters in a news conference Wednesday.
Around 6:42 a.m. Wednesday, Terry Strawn got on the sheriff’s office radio channel and said he had “caused harm to his family” and was going to kill himself, Chronister said.
While on the radio, Strawn provided two addresses and said he had harmed people there.
A supervisor at the sheriff’s office got on the radio and tried to talk to Strawn in efforts to calm the situation.
During the radio transmission, Chronister said Strawn talked about how much he loved the sheriff’s office, and alluded to health and financial issues.
Strawn was employed as deputy of the sheriff’s office from 1991 until his retirement in 2017. He was rehired as a contract employee in 2018 to provide security at Valrico Elementary School, which his granddaughter attended.
During a press briefing, Chronister said that a credit check was performed at the time of Strawn’s rehiring, and there were no indications of financial trouble. He also passed extensive background and psychological tests.
Chronister said that Strawn had a phenomenal reputation at the sheriff’s office and at Valrico Elementary.
“The deputy had no indicators of behavioral issues throughout his career,” Chronister said.
Chronister said the only marks on Strawn’s record were a minor infraction for defacing sheriff’s office property in 1998 and two separate at-fault traffic crashes in 2016.
The deputy was found off school property. Three deputies who found him made “every attempt possible to try to convince this deputy sheriff there was a different way,” but the deputy killed himself in front of them, according to Chronister.
In September, another Hillsborough deputy killed his wife and committed suicide in Pasco County.
The sheriff’s office started a suicide awareness and prevention program that is set to start Jan. 1.
“We have to change the culture. We have to make that everyone knows it’s OK to ask for help,” Chronister said. “So we’re working diligently here at the sheriff’s office to make sure our employees are aware of that as well.”
During an afternoon press briefing, Chronister reiterated that message.
“We all struggle at one point or another in our lives. But there is help; help is available. Call the crisis center at 211. It’s free and anonymous.”