RIVERVIEW (FOX 13) - A Hillsborough County deputy was hospitalized with a broken nose and other injuries after he was attacked by a former Marine Corps corporal, investigators said Tuesday.
Randy Howard's wife told FOX 13 her husband suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after more than four years in the Marines, which including a bomb exploding near his unit, killing some of his close friends.
Howard's wife, who doesn't want to be identified, said he was experiencing one of his frequent psychological episodes Friday. She says she had no choice but to call 911.
"I was calling for help to see if they can force him into the VA hospital," she said, explaining she has been desperate to get him help but he has refused. "He hasn't been able to live like a normal citizen. He doesn't work. He can't work. He always thinks people are after him."
According to investigators, when Deputy Lance Feinman arrived at Howard's Riverview home, Howard attacked.
"As soon as he walked in the house, he didn't even have time to engage the suspect. The suspect came down the stairs and immediately punched him in the face and broke his nose," said Cpl. Larry McKinnon, spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "The suspect ended up putting [Deputy Feinman] in a choke-hold and nearly choked him unconscious."
Investigators said Feinman broke free from the choke hold and used his Taser on Howard, but it was ineffective. Several deputies arrived and helped take Howard into custody.
McKinnon told FOX 13 it's unfortunate Howard is suffering from such severe psychological and emotional issues, but he's fortunate he wasn't shot.
"Deputies have to deal with, in today's society, a very vast array of psychological [and] emotional problems. We're dealing with a lot of veterans that come back from combat that are dealing with post-traumatic stress and we're aware of all that," McKinnon said. "In the end, when you're attacked, violently attacked, for whatever reason, without provocation, the end result could be death or serious injury. And we almost saw that in this case."
Howard's wife said she feels awful about what happened.
"I didn't expect this to happen. I didn't know that the deputy was going to get hurt," she said, adding she hopes her husband can now get the help he needs. "Mentally and physically, you can see that he's mentally gone. He just needs help. Veterans need to help him. The VA needs to help him."
Deputy Feinman was treated and released from the hospital. He's now recovering at home.
Howard is facing several charges and is being held in jail on $19,000 bond.