Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Idolized His Mother

Suspect in deputy's shooting idolized his mother
Tampa Bay Times

Michael Phillips' grandmother was married to a police detective.

The detective, Richard Rockburn, says he last saw Michael Phillips at a family Christmas gathering two years ago.

"It was the holiday season. He was happy," recalled Rockburn, the stepfather of Phillips' mother, Regina Vanamburg. Rockburn dropped in that day to say hello to about 30 family members. "Michael gave me a big hug when I saw him," he said.

Phillips died early Wednesday morning when he was shot by SWAT team members in his mother's home. He was the suspect in the fatal shooting of a sheriff's Sgt. Ron Harrison, a veteran DUI supervisor.

Rockburn, a police detective in Deland, said Vanamburg's family members headed to Brandon today from Tennessee and Deland to support the grieving mother.

"It's going to be hard for her to live there," Rockburn said. "If something tragic happened in my house I probably wouldn’t want to live here. Too many memories. It would never go away."
Rockburn said Phillips was the eldest of Vanamburg's four children.

"She's real close to all of them. She doesn't favor anybody. Gina's a real good mother," he said.
And Phillips, he said, idolized his mother.

Phillips has a long history of arrests, but Rockburn declined to talk about them or speculate on what might have happened Wednesday morning.

"Being a cop for over 20 years, I've worked a lot of cases," he said. "People have motivations for what they do, be it right or wrong."

Phillips was set to go to trial in September on felony charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief.

Sheriff’s deputies accused him of attacking a man and a truck in October 2006 with a rake in Riverview. An arrest report said Phillips stuck the man with the rake, cutting his back. He then used the rake to hit another man’s truck, causing $3,300 worth of damage, the report said.

Because Phillips was a prison release reoffender, prosecutors alerted the court in June that they planned to seek an enhanced sentence against him.

In 2006, Phillips was arrested three times for battery. In one case, he was accused of tampering with a witness, but the charges were dropped when the victim refused to cooperate with the prosecution.

In a misdemeanor case, he was accused of hitting two people in their heads and faces. County Judge Margaret Courtney found Phillips guilty of the batteries and sentenced him to six months of probation.

He ended up violating the probation and served time in jail, records show.

Phillips also was set for trial in September on charges that he fled from deputies and drove recklessly on a suspended license in September 2006.

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