Becky Gage remembers the last time she saw Ron Harrison, a sergeant for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, who died about an hour after the two worked together at a DUI checkpoint on State Road 60, shot and killed at a Brandon intersection that today bears his name.
“Ron Harrison was an awesome man,” said Gage, today a staff victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Hillsborough County. “He was no nonsense, he did everything by the book. He had a huge heart and had a passion to remove drunk drivers, impaired drivers, from the roadways. He was just an all-around nice man, a family man, too.”
The sixth annual "Ride for Ron" is scheduled to kick off today, Oct. 7, in remembrance of Harrison, who died Aug. 15, 2007, after a shot was fired through the passenger window of his car. He was killed near the intersection of Lumsden Road and Kings Avenue in Brandon, which today is known as the "Sgt. Ron Harrison Memorial Intersection."
According to a report from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Harrison had just finished a DUI checkpoint and was sitting in his patrol car near the intersection when a suspect approached his unmarked Crown Victoria and fired into the car through the open passenger side window, "striking Sergeant Harrison multiple times."
He later died at Brandon Regional Hospital.
"He was pretty upbeat that night, he was actually in training, training new officers at the DUI checkpoint," Gage said. "That night he gave me and a couple of the other MADD volunteers who were out there, small Maglight flashlights. I still have mine, it's in a box. As we left that night I remember rolling down the window as we were pulling out of the parking lot. And we just said, 'Goodnight,' and he said, 'You guys be safe.' "
Hours later, "at around 3 a.m.," Gage said, she got a phone call from another MADD volunteer who had stayed later at the DUI checkpoint.
"How she heard about it, I don't know," Gage said.
What she heard was that Harrison had been shot and killed in Brandon.
"There wasn't anything we could do, there wasn't anywhere we could go," she added. "We stayed on the phone for at least 30 or 40 minutes. I just couldn't believe it."
Also that night SWAT team members fatally shot Harrison's killer, Michael Allen Phillips, 24, at his home at 1707 Village Court.
- See Snipers Take Out Sergeant's Killer (Tampa Bay Times)
"The night that he was killed, he was probably rolling down his passneger window to help this young man and this young man shot him," Gage said. "There was no connection, there was no reason. Murder in cold blood, I think it was, and that was the hardest thing to deal with."
Gage said she never will forget Sgt. Ron Harrison.
"There was such an outpouring of support when he was killed," she said. "He was such a face of the sheriff's office, and of the DUI squad. I would just like the community to know that he was a kind and gentle man who would do anything i the world for anybody and who stuck to the law."
Sixth Annual "Ride For Ron"
- The Oct. 7 motorcycle ride will start at the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #108, at 9001 North Taylor Road in Seffner, kickstands up at 10 am.
- The ride will leave the FOP, go through the Ron Harrison Memorial Intersection (Kings Avenue and East Lumsden) and stop for a short break at Brandon Harley before ending back at the FOP.
- Pre-registration begins at 9 a.m. and there is no cost to participate. Donations can be made to the Hillsborough County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
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