Bonita Springs man deputies shot dead was erratic in recent days, neighbors say

Deputies fatally shoot suspect in Bonita

Timothy Allen Baum, 54

Timothy Allen Baum, 54

The first time Timothy Baum picked up a gun this week, he scared his friends and neighbors.

“He went boom boom boom boom boom, the whole clip,” said Dawn Riggio, 41.

The second time, he paid with his life.

Baum, 54, of 27898 New York St., Bonita Springs, died Thursday when Lee County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot the man, who they say was armed. Neighbors, friends and previous police reports all suggest Baum was unstable and acting erratically in recent days.

“He was violent. It seemed that any little thing would set him off,” neighbor Roberto Cruz said in Spanish. “All of the neighbors were afraid.”

Deputies responded to Baum’s house six times in the past 16 days, including on Tuesday, when Riggio said he fired a semi-automatic pistol at his carport ceiling. Baum hid the casings and left before deputies arrived, said Riggio, a friend of Baum’s girlfriend.

“Nobody got arrested,” she said. “He took off.”

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said he visited the scene Thursday night and that he believes the shooting was justified.

“Unfortunately, when it’s deadly force, the only way to meet that is deadly force,” he said.

The home, a brown manufactured house at the intersection of New York and Iowa streets, was cordoned off by crime scene tape and watched by a deputy Friday. Crime scene technicians combed the yard for clues and photographed the scene. A helicopter circled for overhead pictures. Friends and reporters lingered outside the house.

One of the former, Pat Green, said he first alerted deputies to Baum on Thursday night, when he called 911. The two men had traded angry phone calls throughout the night, Green said, when he pulled up to Baum’s house believing they could talk things through. Baum instead came out with a gun and opened fire, Green said.

“I opened up my car door, I got out to talk to him and he started shooting,” he said.

Neighbors recalled hearing only a single gunshot, around 8:30 p.m., shortly after deputies arrived at the home.

Baum’s girlfriend, identified as Laurie Rossey, 48, was inside the house at the time of the shooting, Riggio and Green said.

“She told me she was sleeping in the bed and she heard two shots,” Riggio said. “And then she ran outside and he was on the ground, dead.”

Next-door neighbor Aracely Paz, 34, said that after hearing a single shot, she looked out of her window and saw a deputy’s car and two men leaving the area quickly, one by car and one on foot. Baum was in the yard, face down and handcuffed behind his back, Paz recalled. He was still moving, but as an ambulance neared, she saw a deputy give him cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Paramedics placed an oxygen mask on his face, she remembered.

Friends said Baum was a Vietnam veteran, a carpenter and a hard worker who seemed troubled in recent days. Some of those problems related to his girlfriend, friends said, as the two often argued loudly. Deputies received complaints from Rossey that Baum beat her. Yet Rossey remained in the house.

Baum has previous convictions in Lee County for trespass, battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony. He was arrested two years ago on drug charges, but prosecutors dropped the case.

In the past week, deputies responded to three complaints regarding Baum. On Sunday, he told deputies that Rossey was taking his pills. On Monday, he complained that Green stole from his house, the source of the two men’s argument. And on Tuesday, neighbors complained about the gunshots.

Baum’s neighbors, many of them Hispanic, described a man who was standoffish and confrontational. Several interviewed Friday said Baum yelled at them when they played music.

“I knew him, but only from a distance,” neighbor Dulce Estrella, 20, said. “He didn’t like the music that my sister played, and he would come over and yell things in English that we didn’t understand. They weren’t good things.”

The name of the deputies involved in the shooting have not been released, and it is unclear how many times Baum was shot. Those involved will be placed on light duty until an investigation by the agency’s Major Crimes Unit is concluded, Scott said.

The fatal shooting was the first by a deputy in south Lee County since February 2009, when an officer shot and killed a San Carlos Park man who reached for a gun.

Three days prior, deputies killed a Bonita Springs man who also reached for a gun. Both shootings occurred at the men’s homes. In both cases, the deputies were cleared.

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Staff writer Katy Bishop contributed to this report.

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