Sheriff Paul Blackman of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department in Florida, sadly reports the death of Deputy Sheriff William Gentry.
Deputy Gentry, 40, sustained a gunshot wound during the investigation of a neighbor complaint when a cat was reported to have been shot with a BB gun. Gentry and another deputy he was training were talking with the animal’s owner and it was determined that the suspect was the next-door neighbor.
The deputies went to the neighbor’s home to contact the suspect. As Gentry was standing at the front door making contact, the suspect brandished a firearm and shot Gentry in the head. The suspect was immediately taken into custody. He was identified as Joseph Edward Ables, 69.
Deputy Gentry was air lifted to Lee Memorial Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery and remained in the intensive care unit until his condition deteriorated and he died.
It is with tremendous sadness that we report that Deputy William J. Gentry Jr. passed away at 1:10 p.m. today, May 7, at Lee Memorial Hospital as a result of his injuries. Please keep his family and our HCSO family in your prayers.
— Highlands Co Sheriff (@HighCoSheriff) May 7, 2018
It was later determined that Ables was a convicted felon. Multiple charges are pending against the man in the murder of Gentry, including possession of a firearm by a felon and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
“William is an experienced law enforcement officer and serves as one of our Field Training Deputies,” Sheriff Blackman said. “His brother is one of our detectives. This is an unimaginable tragedy for our agency. Our prayers are with Deputy Gentry and his family and we ask that your prayers be with them, also.”
“Today, my wife, Ann, and I join all Floridians in mourning the loss of another Florida hero, Deputy William Gentry, whose life has now been senselessly taken,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “Last night, I spoke with Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman and committed all available state resources they may need. We will not stand for anyone who hurts our law enforcement.”
— lauren verno (@laurenverno) May 7, 2018
The Florida Sheriffs Association released this statement Monday:
“We stand with Deputy Gentry, his family, his friends, and with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office during this tragic time. We are heartbroken at this reminder that law enforcement put their lives on the line every moment they are on duty for their fellow citizens. This attack is a terrible demonstration that evil lurks, and that life is meaningless to some. The Sheriffs of Florida have offered our resources to all first responders who are diligently and respectfully working on this tragedy in Highlands County, and who are investigating and bringing justice for our deputy and his family.”
We mourn the loss of @HighCoSheriff Deputy William Gentry. He died this afternoon after being shot in the line of duty yesterday. Yet another public servant gone way too soon. #LODD #neverforget pic.twitter.com/Xa3TMwi46N
— @myclearwaterPD (@myclearwaterPD) May 7, 2018
William Gentry served the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department for nine years. His brother who serves with him as a deputy survives him.
Deputy William Gentry is gone, but will never be forgotten. EOW: Monday, May 7, 2018.