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Highlands County Deputy Killed While Responding To Dispute About Cat

May 7, 2018

Updated 4:13 p.m.

A Florida sheriff's deputy died Monday afternoon, a day after being shot in the head while responding to a dispute over a cat, authorities said.

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that Deputy William Gentry was critically wounded Sunday night while responding to a dispute between neighbors over a cat that had been shot.

Sheriff Paul Blackman told reporters that after speaking with the cat's owner, Gentry approached the man suspected of shooting the cat, 69-year-old Joseph Edward Ables, at his Lake Placid front door. Blackman said Ables then shot Gentry in the head shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday. The 40-year-old deputy was airlifted to a Fort Myers hospital.

Ables was arrested at the scene. Gentry had a deputy-in-training with him when he responded to the call, and neither man exchanged gunfire with Ables, Blackman said.

Ables was held without bond on charges that include attempted first-degree murder and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. The deputy's death will likely bring new charges. Jail records did not show whether Ables had an attorney.

The sheriff's office statement said Ables was a convicted felon with a history of violence toward law enforcement.

Gentry is a field training officer and has served for over nine years with the sheriff's office, where his brother is a detective, Blackman said.

"This is an unimaginable tragedy for our agency," Blackman said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted late Sunday that he had offered "all state resources" to Blackman. "Hurting a (law enforcement officer) is pure evil (and) we won't stand for it," Scott wrote.