Hillsborough County Sheriff's Sergeant Ronald Harrison was killed in the early morning hours of August 15, 2007, in Brandon, Florida, by a lone white supremacist in what investigators are calling a random attack.
The shooter, Michael Allen Phillips, 24, was shot and killed by SWAT members a few hours later, after a stand-off with police in which he fired numerous shots at officers surrounding his mother’s house, where he lived.
According to law enforcement, during negotiations Phillips made references to “8814,” a numeric phrase used by white supremacists; 88 being code for “Heil Hitler” and 14 the number of words in an infamous white supremacist slogan. Officers later found a letter expressing what police called “extreme racism” at his residence.
Phillips shot Harrison while the officer was driving home in his unmarked police car on his way from patrolling a DUI checkpoint. Witnesses heard gunshots and saw Harrison’s car bump into another vehicle, then crash into a tree.
Harrison, 55, had been shot twice in the upper torso and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The Sheriff’s office believes that Harrison was ambushed by Phillips.
After the shooting, Phillips' ex-girlfriend and the mother of his 3-year-old child contacted police and told them that Phillips had called her and claimed that he had just killed a police officer and was now coming after her family. Phillips was briefly spotted outside of her parents’ house, before fleeing to the home he shared with his mother. The SWAT team arrived at the home and attempted to negotiate with Phillips. During the negotiations, Phillips fired shots at deputies gathered outside. Snipers fired back, killing Phillips.
Phillips had a long and violent criminal history that began at the age of 12 and included 23 arrests and two prison terms. The numerous charges involved armed burglary, grand larceny, battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding, drug and domestic violence charges. Neighbors also allege that Phillips was involved in dog fighting, and that Animal Control had been called to his house on at least one occasion.
Phillips was sentenced to two years in prison in November 2003 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and resisting an officer with violence. He returned to prison after violating probation in November 2004, and was released in April 2005.
Phillips was scheduled to go on trial this September for felony charges of fleeing from deputies in a high-speed chase, obstruction, reckless driving and driving with a suspended or revoked license. Prosecutors were reportedly planning to seek enhanced penalties against him due to his prison release re-offender status.