JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The woman shot in the head as she was getting into her car leaving her Southbank workplace late Thursday afternoon had a restraining order out against the man believed to have shot her. That man, an ex-police officer from Connecticut, then shot himself.
Both the victim and suspect remain in critical condition at UF Health.
Late Friday, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office identified the victim as Lynn Herriott and the gunman as William Chase Jr., but released no additional information on the double shooting.
Clay County court records show Herriott had sought restraining orders against her onetime fiancé, Dexter Levin, three times over incidents of domestic violence. Jacksonville police said Chase also carried identification as Levin, with the same date of birth.
Levin was arrested by Clay County deputies after he pushed his way into Herriott's home on Feb. 19. He was charged with kidnapping, aggravated domestic assault, aggravated domestic battery and armed burglary. That report indicates the couple was together for five years, but after the relationship ended in December, he repeatedly tried to contact her.
According to the arrest report, Levin held a gun to her head and tried to strangle her. Herriott said Levin told her he was going to kill her and kill himself. She told deputies he eventually released her and she ran, screaming to a neighbor's house to get help.
Herriott told Clay County investigators she changed her phone number and discontinued her email account, saying that he had been sending her an average of 20 emails every day. He told deputies that he stopped trying to contact her after she gave back the engagement ring on Feb. 9.
Levin, 58, was out on bond with a court order mandating no contact with the victim. He was due back in court on June 22.
According to police, the woman was shot just after 5 p.m. Thursday in a parking lot off Riverplace Boulevard. According to police, the gunman was waiting for her to get off work and shot her before turning the gun on himself. Both suffered life-threatening injuries and were taken to UF Health Jacksonville.
"Right now she's really fighting for her life in critical condition," Natasha Bridges, Herriott's sister, told News4Jax. "I just feel like the police system, the law needs to do a better job when it comes to domestic violence because now she's fighting for her life."
Bridges said her sister was shot six times, has had brain surgery and lost an eye. She said Herriott, who is 47, is a mother of three children who worked in the foster care office contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Detectives were interviewing witnesses and trying to obtain surveillance footage from area businesses, but haven't said much else about the case.
News4Jax learned that Chase, aka Levin, worked as a police officer in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for more than a decade, retiring to Flordia in 1993. Over the next two decades, he was married and divorced twice in Jacksonville. Another woman tried to get a restraining order against Levin in 2011, but that was denied.
Domestic violence victim advocate says seeking help isn't easy
Peggy Payne, CEO of Quigley House, which provides support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, said it's sad that domestic violence situations happen so often.
"When someone looks at you and tells you how much they love you, turns on you and then you believe in your heart of hearts, as you're cornered, they are going to take your life, there's nothing worse," Payne said.
Seeking help isn't always an easy option, Payne said.
"For victims, many times, it's not as simple as shutting off the light switch and saying, 'OK. I am not going to love you anymore.' They may have children in common. They may have years of a relationship in common. And the victim wants the old relationship back," Payne said.
Payne said even though it appears Herriott did everything she could to escape danger, there's nothing to stop a determined person who will break the law.
"For orders of protection, they are only as good as the person it's against. If they have no respect for the laws or the person who has the protective order, it's a piece of paper. It's not magic. And it's not bulletproof," Payne said.
According to News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, statistics show police officers' homes are subject to domestic violence more than other homes.
"Victims feel vulnerable because the perpetrator, who is a police officer, they have guns. They know the location of the battered women's shelter. And they know the legal system and maybe can manipulate the system to their advantage sometimes," Smith said.