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Shopkeeper shoots burglar who was armed with a crowbar

Originally ran here as:
"Alarm Wakes Shopkeeper Who Guns Down Intruder, Deputies Say"
by Bill Heery
The Tampa Tribune
December 05, 2001

LAKELAND, FLORIDA -- John Samanns says he was in fear for his life when, alerted by an alarm, he found an intruder early Tuesday at his drive-through beverage store.

Samanns, who was staying at the store because of prior break-ins, said he felt threatened by the intruder, who had a crowbar.

"He was already inside," Samanns said. "He had it [crowbar] up in his hand, and I wasn't taking any chances."

Samanns said he fired two shots with a Taurus 9mm handgun.

One of the bullets hit Lary D. Russell in the abdomen, said Polk County Sheriff's Office spokesman Aaron Flint. The 41-year-old Polk County man died.

Samanns, 37, of Mulberry, appears to have acted in self-defense in the shooting at John's Drive-Thru at 1515 S. Combee Road in south Lakeland, Flint said.

The sheriff's office said Samanns was sleeping in his store and heard an alarm go off about 1:45 a.m. Samanns went to the south side of the store and found a man with a crowbar breaking in, Flint said.

Except for a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia conviction and some traffic offenses, Russell had no record in Polk County, officials said. Flint said Russell's relatives told investigators they hadn't seen him in months.

Two people who knew Russell, Juanita Flannery, 55, and her son David Flannery, 36, said Russell stayed with them at their Auburndale home at 216 Noxon St. for several months two or three years ago.

They were surprised to hear how he'd been killed.

"I hadn't seen Lary in quite a while, but that just don't sound like him," Juanita Flannery said.

"He was just a good guy," David Flannery said.

Russell was an engine builder, they said, but they didn't know where or if he had been working. David Flannery said Russell might have been staying in Lakeland.

Detectives will provide the state attorney's office a report, Flint said.

Chip Thullbery of the state attorney's office said prosecutors will make a determination on whether the shooting was justified.

Reporter Bill Heery can be reached at (863) 683-6538.

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