NOKOMIS — A few hours before he was shot to death by a Sarasota County deputy, Mark Coleman was having a good time with family and friends at a party supporting Toys for Tots.
But shortly after midnight something must have “snapped,” a neighbor said Saturday.
A deputy, arriving for a report of gunshots and a domestic disturbance in the middle of Palm & Pines Mobile Home & RV Park, shot Coleman shortly after coming upon the scene, reports show.
Mark Richard Coleman had been fighting with his wife, and it spilled from their trailer into the common area of the park, according to reports from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
Coleman, 65, was armed with a handgun, the report shows. A neighbor said at least three gunshots were fired before the deputy arrived.
The deputy heard screaming and saw Coleman on top of his wife, the report states, and the deputy yelled at Coleman to get off.
Coleman yelled at the deputy to shoot him, put the barrel of the gun into his mouth. Another person jumped into the scuffle, the sheriff’s office reported, and then Coleman pointed the gun toward the deputy.
The officer fired, killing Coleman with a single gunshot wound, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said later the shooting happened about 45 seconds after the deputy had arrived at the scene.
He also said the person who jumped into the fracas did not help.
“It’s a dangerous situation that becomes much more dangerous when citizens get involved,” he said. “Our hopes would be that he (the deputy) could have de-escalated it, toned it down a bit. That’s what he was trying to do.”
“Who knows whether that situation was heightened or not by that individual becoming involved,” Knight continued. “We can’t say for certain. What we do know is what happened.”
Before the call
The 911 call to the sheriff’s office came at 12:39 a.m. for the disturbance at the Palm & Pines, 255 N. Tamiami Trail.
Just a few hours before that, Coleman and his wife were having a good time at Paradise Grill, a local restaurant and bar about a mile and a half from the mobile home park, with neighbor William Brown.
Brown said the party at Paradise Grill was celebrating the birthday of the restaurant’s owner Mary Beth Hansen, and patrons were asked to bring contributions for Toys for Tots and nonperishable food for the South County Food Pantry. It was a good time, he said.
After he returned to his home in Palm & Pines and went to bed, he heard movement outside his trailer and then a gunshot. He went out and heard the couple arguing. It was about 12:38 a.m., he said. He called 911.
Brown said he believed the first shot may have come from inside the couple’s trailer.
“I know I heard three gunshots before the deputy arrived,” he said.
Despite being hard of hearing, Brown, a U.S. Navy veteran, said he heard Coleman’s wife, Sharon, calling for help as the couple fought in the darkness.
He said a woman in her 20s, who also knew the couple, quickly ran to his home and was there while Brown was on the phone with the 911 operator.
The woman wanted to run over to the Colemans and help, Brown said. He tried holding her back, but she took off. The woman allegedly jumped on Mark’s back but he threw her off. She repeatedly yelled for him to stop, Brown said.
Minutes later, the deputy arrived at Brown’s trailer, which is behind the Coleman’s residence. The officer ran through Brown’s carport.
“Although I didn’t see anything, I clearly heard the deputy scream at least three times to ‘put it down,’” Brown said.
After the deputy shot Coleman, Brown said he held onto both women involved. “I was holding onto them while the deputy was pacing back and forth. He really seemed upset. It took about a minute or so until the other deputies arrived.
“It’s very sad. I know this is going to stay with this young deputy for the rest of his life,” Brown said. “I hope the (sheriff’s) department gets him help. He was doing his job.
“I can’t tell you what was going on inside of Mark’s head when this happened. He is such a nice guy. He was doing a remodeling project at the trailer, which they only bought about six weeks ago.
“Mark bought a new golf cart for his grandchildren to ride around when they visited,” said Brown, a two-year resident of the RV park. “Mark was a social guy. He loved Donald Trump. I didn’t, so we joked a lot about it. We were joking at the birthday party all before this happened. I don’t know. I think he just snapped.”
Brown said he never heard Mark Coleman raise his voice in the short time they were neighbors. He said they were having fun at Paradise Grill.
“Mark was laughing. I have a photo of him wearing two ladies’ purses and his wife’s arm around him, just three hours earlier,” Brown said. “It’s just hard to believe that he’s gone. It’s sad for his wife, her daughters and the grandchildren.
“It’s a safe park. We live very close to one another and we are a pretty tight-knit group.”
During a press conference Saturday morning, Sheriff Tom Knight, responding to a reporter’s question, said Coleman has a “very minor” history with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
He said the wife involved in the disturbance was treated for minor injuries and is fine.
The deputy had not been identified Saturday. The officer was placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation.
By 1 p.m., deputies had taken photos, interviewed everyone and removed the crime-scene tape that spanned from Brown’s driveway to the couple’s trailer.