Police officers in the United States do not shoot many women, and when they do, the women are usually suicidal and/or mentally ill, and armed with knives. It is rare for a police officer to shoot a woman who at the time is committin…
A few minutes past noon on Saturday, October 20, 2012, two men in a car traveling on a dirt road in the rural El Pico neighborhood of Spring Hill, Florida, came upon a nude woman walking along the side of the road. They pulled up to her and asked if she needed help. Sounding perfectly rational, she said everything was okay, and continued on her way. A short time later, the men saw this woman, still naked, in front of a mobile home on Orchard Way. She held a large, sliver cross, and was waving it over her head while muttering something about the antichrist. The men did not report what they saw to the police.
The nude lady with the big, silver cross was 42-year-old Marie Swanson who lived in a mobile home on Orchard Way with her boyfriend.
Marie and her family moved to Tampa from Connecticut in 1979 when she was 9-years-old. After graduating from Gaither High School in Tampa, she attended community college on and off, but never earned an associates' degree. Her family left the state, but Marie, on her own since she was eighteen, paid for her apartment and car by working as a waitress around the Tampa Bay area. She worked several years at a place called Laker Cafe in Land O'Lakes. The restaurant closed in 2008.
About a year later, Marie met David Simpson, and eventually moved into his mobile home on Orchard Way in Spring Hill. According to Simpson, Swanson's principal interest in life centered around her religious beliefs. She attended the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, led a bible study group, and listened to Christian radio. Swanson was also extremely shy, modest, and conservative. Other than over-the-counter sleeping pills, and an occasional marijuana smoke, she did not use drugs.
Ricky Howard, a 31-year-old Hernando County sheriff's deputy, on Saturday October 20, was attending a family gathering hosted by his wife's parents at their home on Orchard Way down the road from where the two men had seen the naked woman. William Mechler, a 26-year-old officer with the Tampa Police Department, was also a guest at the get-together on Orchard Way.
At 1:30 that afternoon, Marie Swanson, still naked, showed up at the party attended by the two off-duty police officers. Since no one had invited her, and she was obviously unbalanced, Deputy Howard asked her to leave. Following her departure, officer Howard called the sheriff's office to report the incident.
When Marie returned to the gathering a short time later, the nude woman carried an antique, single-shot firearm that wasn't loaded. (The gun once belonged to her boyfriend's father.) One or both of the off-duty police officers, when confronted with the nude woman with a gun, shot her dead.
Deputy Howard and officer Mechler were placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
David Simpson, in speaking to a reporter with the Tampa Bay Times, said this about Marie Swanson: "She believed she was coming to an end....She always told me she was going home. She always told me she was dying of cancer. She had difficulty sleeping and would wake up to scribble lines from the Bible. I could tell it in her eyes, she wasn't the Marie that I knew." According to Simpson, Marie kept saying, "My brain won't shut off."
In December 2012, the Florida State Attorney General's Office declared the Swanson shooting as justified deadly force. In February 2013, both of the officers involved in Swanson's death were awarded metals of honor.