Lakeland man shot and killed after pointing gun at 6 officers

Neighbors said Jerry Roach, 71, was yelling and fired one shot into the air. He then pointed a shotgun at police officers.

LAKELAND, Fla. – Racial tension between a 71-year-old man and his neighbors reached a deadly peak Thursday night, when six police officers shot Larry Roach outside of his Lakeland home not long after he hurled racial slurs at his neighbors, aimed a shotgun at them and fired a shot into the air.

“He actually fired at us,” said a neighbor who spoke with 10News on-camera, but declined to give her name. “You really hate us that bad. You really fired at us this time.” That neighbor corroborated police reports that there’s been long-standing tension between Roach and his African American neighbors.

“They’re very racist. I don’t know what their problem is,” she said. "He will pull directly in front of us, call us [n-words].”

Police said around 9 p.m. on Thursday, they came out to Roach’s home on West Crescent Drive and tried for two hours to get him out of the house without his weapon.

“He made it clear that he was going to come out with his shotgun and we would have to kill him,” said Sgt. Gary Gross. “Very unfortunate; that's the last thing officers want to do. He made us do it, he approached them with a shotgun.”

Sgt. Gross said six officers fired at Roach after he refused to obey orders to drop his shotgun. Roach was taken to Lakeland Regional Health where he was pronounced dead.

A niece said she did not understand why police had to kill Roach. “I know that it could have ended differently. They didn't have to shoot him,” said Brenda Walker. "He must have felt threatened in order to bring a gun out. I don't know why he brought the gun out with police. I don't believe he would have shot the police."

Roach was known to the Lakeland Police Department, and officials say they had been called out to his home eight times in the last year. He was also a convicted felon with three felonies and two misdemeanor arrests. He was last booked in April 2007 on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence.

The six officers who fired at Roach are on paid administrative leave pending an internal and state investigation, which is standard procedure.

The six Lakeland officers are on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol.

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