Highlands County deputy passes away; suspect arrested

- The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office says one of their deputies -- critically wounded after being shot by a suspect last night -- has now died.

Deputy William Gentry, a field training deputy with the agency, responded to a Lake Placid neighborhood before 8 p.m. on Sunday investigating a neighbor’s dispute over a cat, the sheriff’s office says. Deputy Gentry went to 234 Baltimore Way, where 69-year-old Joseph Edward Ables lives, while a training officer remained with the neighbor who initially called law enforcement. Ables was suspected of shooting the neighbor’s cat.

When Deputy Gentry made contact with Ables at his front door, Ables pulled out a gun and shot Deputy Gentry in the head, Sheriff Paul Blackman explained during an early morning press conference.

Gentry was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital in critical condition, but succumbed to his injuries at 1:10 p.m.

"Please keep his family and our HCSO family in your prayers," the sheriff's office tweeted in announcing his death.

Ables has a criminal background, including several felony charges, and at least one count of battery on a law enforcement officer. He was initially arrested on an attempted homicide charge, though that will now likely be upgraded. He is facing several other charges, including possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, resisting an arrest, and tampering with evidence. 

The sheriff said Deputy Gentry was 40 years old and had been with the agency for more than eight years. His brother is also a Highlands County deputy. 

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