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Troy Gordon was always smiling. But not Saturday: Something was troubling him.
When he came home from work, he went straight to his sun porch to grab a white, plastic lawn chair and his Bible. He went outside, put the chair in a sunny patch in his driveway, and began to read.
Gordon’s grandmother, Marie Turner, watched him, but didn’t ask questions. She knew the shooting the day before in Newtown, Conn., had shaken her grandson. They were originally from Connecticut, and moved to Palm Coast when Gordon was 7, after his mother died.
Two hours later, Gordon was dead.
Soon after he got home, Turner asked Gordon to come inside to help make dinner. He always helped his grandmother around the house in the wake of medical complications that put her in a wheelchair. “I used to take care of him; now he takes care of me,” she said. “But I was still teaching him things. That day, I was going to teach him to make a turkey pot pie.”
Gordon said he’d be in soon, so Turner went to the kitchen to dice the turkey, which Gordon had bought for her the day before.
Soon, she saw him stand up and walk down the street, holding his Bible open, his eyes on the sky as his lips moved, perhaps in inaudible prayer.
“I watched him, and you could tell he was talking to God,” Turner said. “He was talking to his Lord, trying to figure things out.”
Around his waist, he wore an 18-inch machete in a case, which he used for yard work around the house. At some point, he removed the knife from its sheathing as he paced the length of his yard along the street, occasionally taking swipes at patches of grass.
Soon after, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to Gordon’s home on Brownstone Lane in reference to a possible Baker Act situation, according to an incident report. This act allows people in Florida to be taken involuntarily to a psychiatric facility for an examination if they are unable to recognize the need for care themselves.
The call came from Gordon’s girlfriend, who came over to his house and noticed he was acting strangely, Turner said.
But what her grandson needed, Turner said, was for him to be taken to a place where someone could talk to him and calm him down. He was often distraught over the state of the world, and especially so after Friday’s shooting.
When deputies arrived, Gordon was in his garage breaking things, according to an incident report written by Sgt. Larry Jones. They were told he’d been walking down the street with the machete, talking to himself.
Jones asked Deputy Brandon Fiveash to draw his Taser as he opened the door of the home’s laundry room, which leads into its garage.
It was dark. Jones shined his light into the garage, but didn’t see Gordon, so he called out. Gordon said he wasn’t coming out of the garage and would hurt anyone who came in, Jones wrote.
Jones wrote that he said he was going to enter the garage as Gordon stacked furniture in attempt to barricade himself inside. As Jones tried to speak with him, Gordon used profanity and swung the machete above his head, breaking a light bulb, the report says.
“At that time, (Gordon) placed the machete above his head and stated that he was going to kill us and we were going to need a body bag,” Jones wrote, adding that Gordon moved toward Fiveash and Deputy Joseph Dailey.
Fiveash deployed his Taser on Gordon, the report says, before moving forward to detain him. But Fiveash fell over, Jones continued, giving Gordon time to regain his footing and advance once again. At that point, Dailey fired his gun at Gordon, the report says.
Inside, Turner couldn’t see anything; she could only hear. She had been standing in her kitchen when deputies had announced themselves outside her front door and kicked in the door. She watched from the kitchen as they opened door after door before finding Gordon in the garage.
They went inside. Turner said she heard voices and then five shots.
Deputies handcuffed Gordon, who was lying on the cement floor. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
His girlfriend told police she was worried for his safety because he had been acting unusually and had taken drugs in the week preceding. She wanted him taken in for treatment, the report says.
To Turner, deputies acted rashly and unjustly. Her grandson needed help; not to be shot.
“Troy was always reading,” she said. “He wanted to know the world, but he couldn’t stand the way things were. He always said he wasn’t going to be here too long because of the way things in the world were going.”
Two days after the shooting, Turner is back at home, now alone. She’s lived in this house for nearly two decades, usually with Gordon, except for the time he served in the U.S. Marines. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do next. She needs to get away, maybe for good, she said.
In the meantime, her phone is ringing constantly, and her house is full of friends and neighbors who stop by to help her. They all say the same thing: Gordon was a good person, devoted to his grandmother. They say he was always smiling.
“They took his life like it meant nothing,” Turner said. “But I have no heavy burden. I feel very light because I know what happened.”
Dailey and Fiveash have been placed on administrative leave, per Sheriff’s Office policy. The incident is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
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