VENICE — Neighbors and friends cleaned up and secured the home Tuesday of a man who police say stabbed himself when they confronted him on a charge of shoplifting Monday night.
Several neighbors were not shocked at the death of Randy Dull, 60, of Nokomis.
“It’s something we thought was inevitable,” neighbor Chris Posin said Tuesday. “We’re not really surprised.”
“Police were here constantly,” Billie McKinney said.
Dull, who lived in the 600 block of Tangerine Street, had allegedly shoplifted from Publix at Venice Commons. When authorities confronted him in the 1400 block of East Venice Avenue, he brandished a knife, cutting his neck and chest.
Venice Police used a Taser on him, then attempted to save his life. He was pronounced dead Monday night at Venice Regional Bayfront Health.
Because Venice Police were involved in the situation, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
“Per VPD police, there is one officer currently on administrative leave, and that same officer is required to see a psychologist prior to returning to work,” city of Venice Public Information Officer Lorraine Anderson said in an email. “VPD also offers counseling services to all the members of the department who tried to render aid to Mr. Dull.”
A video exists of the confrontation, but is “held exempt at this time due to the ongoing investigation,” Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Kaitlyn Perez said.
Officials at the Venice Commons Publix would not comment, deferring to Publix corporate management in Lakeland. Messages to them were not returned Tuesday evening.
‘Heart of Gold’
While neighbors said there had been more police activity at Dull’s home in recent months, one woman called Dull her “brother from another mother” and said he was often used by people.
Mary Trant, of South Venice, calls herself Dull’s “power of attorney” although paperwork was stalled because of COVID-19, she said.
On Tuesday afternoon, she was working with Dull’s neighbors to make sure the windows and doors were locked up at the home, which stands in the shade of a huge tree.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” Trant said. “He had a heart of gold. He would take care of other people and they would screw him over and rob him.”
That is when she said “enough is enough.”
Her routine became mowing and cleaning and running people out of Dull’s house.
“I’d leave for a couple days and then a whole new set would show up — and I’d run all them off.”
Dull’s life had become problematic in recent months.
The home was about to go into foreclosure but that was paused, and Trant and Dull had hired an attorney. She said the bank had missed a couple steps and things had slowed down because of the coronavirus.
A wheelchair in a modified garage was something Dull used often. Trant said he couldn’t make it to the bathroom at night.
And then there was the apparent mental illness, Trant said.
“Just last week, I came out of the house from cleaning, and he said: ‘I just talked to my mom.’ He’s crying. I know his mom’s dead,” she recalled. “And I said: ‘You talked to her where?’ ‘She was just here,’ he says. He says: ‘I gotta have another drink to stop these voices in my head.’”
Trant and the other neighbors were all surprised about the shoplifting allegation. Trant does not believe Dull drove to the Publix at Venice Commons on his own — and she’d like to know who took him there.
She suspects it was another person in the long line of people who used him.
“He couldn’t drive. He ain’t got no car. Somebody had to take him,” she said, saying it makes her feel “real angry.”
Venice Police responded to a reported shoplifter about 5 p.m. Monday at the Publix supermarket in Venice Commons.
“The male suspect threatened supermarket employees with a knife and fled the store,” the city of Venice stated in a news release Monday night.
Officers confronted him in the 1400 block of East Venice Avenue, where Dull “began inflicting life-threatening wounds on himself,” Venice Police said in the news release.
A report from Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said he “caused several lacerations to his neck and chest.”
Authorities said Dull “ignored commands from officers to drop the knife. Police deployed a Taser to disarm the suspect so they could render first aid,” the news release said.
Venice Police rendered first aid until the Sarasota County Fire Department arrived and transported Dull to Venice Regional Bayfront Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The westbound lanes were shut down on East Venice Avenue from Pinebrook Road to Capri Isles Boulevard while the investigation was underway.
The news release noted that, because of the Venice Police Department’s involvement, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the investigation.
‘He was lost’
Neighbors and Trant speculated on what may have happened but admitted nobody really knew. Was there a mental illness that lead to substance abuse or did substance abuse lead to mental illness?
“I don’t know which came first, the mental illness or the drugs — but both of them together is a lethal combination as we all know. And then people prey on that,” Posin said.
They agreed some people who stopped by didn’t have the best intentions of Dull in their mind.
“He was always chasing people off and then letting them back in,” Posin said.
He couldn’t walk and “his health was not good,” McKinney said.
“Sooner or later, something was going to give,” McKinney said. “Somebody was going to OD; somebody was going to shoot somebody.”
Trant said she hadn’t learned about his death until Tuesday morning. She hadn’t been by his house Monday because she hadn’t been feeling well herself and has been helping her own mother as well.
“He was such a good person. He really was. He was lost,” Trant said.