|Birth: ||May 11, 1978|
|Death: ||Jul. 18, 2008|
July 19, 2008
Fort Myers cop shot dead outside nightclub
Cop interceded in argument downtown; shooter killed as he fled
BY RACHEL MYERS
From today's edition of The News-Press
It started as a deceivingly standard scenario.
Heated words were exchanged between a couple as they stood at the hub of downtown Fort Myers early Friday morning, witnesses say.
It was all somewhat chaotic, the buzz drowning out the shouts as bartenders yelled last call and patrons flooded into the muggy night. Still, the bickering on Main Street near the Indigo Room attracted a crowd, and witnesses would later tell detectives others had tried to intervene, fearing for the woman's safety.
Moments later, just after 2 a.m., Fort Myers police officer Andrew Widman, rounded the corner on routine patrol, perhaps quickening his steps as he approached the argument. According to police spokeswoman Shelly Flynn, the officer's presence "enraged" the male half of the dispute, Abel Arrango, 26, of Naples.
Spitting a slew of threats, Arrango brandished a 9 mm handgun. In a blink, he shot Widman once in the face at close range, killing him instantly, police said.
"The officer probably never even knew what happened," Maj. Doug Baker said. "That would suggest why he didn't have his weapon out or seek cover. It would suggest the officer did not know the bad guy was armed."
In fact, Arrango shouldn't have been armed. As a convicted felon, he wasn't allowed to own a gun.
It marked the first time a Fort Myers officer has been gunned down since Lt. Matthew Hisler in 1930, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page Inc. Web site. Widman's death also marked Lee County's 25th homicide of the year.
But the gunfire didn't end there.
As Widman lie motionless on the sidewalk, Arrango fled along Main Street toward Broadway.
At least four officers in the area gave chase. Amid cowering, panicked crowds, Arrango fired several shots at his pursuers, and police bullets fired back, ultimately killing Arrango with one shot near the corner of Main and Hendry streets.
"I heard about 20 shots," said Kip Notbom, owner of Neo nightclub, a block away. "I heard the initial shooting. It was the end of the night, and I was standing outside, talking to a couple of the other cops. We heard three or four shots, and we ran out to Main Street."
Stray bullets pierced the windows and walls of nearby businesses, but no one else was hurt.
"It was chaos," Notbom said. "A lot of people running. A lot of people tried to gather around the officer, and we were trying to get everyone away from him."
Baker said Widman likely saved 26-year-old Crystal Turcotte's life, as Arrango's rage had initially been directed toward her. Turcotte, of San Carlos Park, has a child with Arrango, and was detained for questioning. Baker said charges against her are unlikely.
Justin DeLaCruz, a Lehigh Acres business owner, was leaving the Latin-music themed event at Neo with his girlfriend when he heard the first round of shots, which he mistook for fireworks. Then he saw Widman, motionless.
"I got my girlfriend behind a car and ran over to him and checked for a pulse," DeLaCruz said. "He didn't have one. And then I went to do mouth-to-mouth, and then the second round of shots was fired. Then there were more police, and they wouldn't let anyone else near him."
Widman's fellow officers stood vigil through the night.
"They did not leave, they would not leave, and I don't think you could have pried them out of there," said Baker, his voice breaking.
Chief Hilton Daniels is out of town, but was made aware of Widman's death.
Those who worked the night shift with Widman had nicknamed him "Rev," partly because he was a licensed minister with a master's degree in divinity, but also because he had such an easy way with people, even the difficult ones.
"We used to tease him and say, ‘So, when you're arresting someone do you pray for them, too?" Baker said.
Officer Brian O'Reilly, who worked the shift with Widman, remembered him from the time he joined the academy.
"He always had a smile on his face," O'Reilly said. "He always had such a positive attitude."
Widman, a Cape Coral resident, leaves behind his wife, Susanna, and three children under 5. His family has asked for privacy as it grieves, Flynn said.
In the aftermath, other law enforcement agencies, including the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, assisted with crime scene forensics and traffic control. Fort Myers police are conducting the main investigation, which will be forwarded to the state attorney's office upon completion. Also, the four officers who fired back at Arrango — Alain Gagnon, B.J. Ades, Wolfgang Daniel and Mike Perry — have been placed on paid administrative leave, as per policy.
NAACP president Willie Green sent his condolences to the police department.
"It is certainly a sad day," Green said. "This was a useless killing. ... I am just filled with the sickness of sorrow."
Andrew Widman, 30, of Cape Coral, Florida passed away July 18, 2008. He was born May 11, 1978 in Toledo, Ohio the son of Joseph and Martha Widman. He leaves to cherish his memory his beloved wife Susanna Widman of Cape Coral, FL, three children Samuel Joseph Widman (4 years old), Sasha Marie Widman (20 months) and Sylvia Jane Widman (5 months), his parents Joseph and Martha Widman of Monclova, OH, sisters Abby (Joe) Hillrich and Alyse Widman, and brother Tony Widman, his grandmother Wilma Widman, his mother- and father-in-law, Tommy and Bonnie Rickards of North Fort Myers, FL, as well as three brothers-in-law Major David (Lexie) Rickards, Mark (Suzanna) Rickards, and Joshua Rickards. Visitation will be on Tuesday, July 22 from 6-8 pm at Fort Myers Memorial Gardens Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, July 23, at 11 am at McGregor Baptist Church of Fort Myers, 3750 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers, Florida. Contributions in Andrew's memory may be made to Fifth Third Bank C/O The Andrew Widman Memorial Fund, account #7432124563. Funeral arrangements under the direction of Fort Myers Memorial Gardens Funeral Home, 1589 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida 33907. 239-936-0555
**Thank You to Corey for sponsoring Andrew's memorial**
Fort Myers Memorial Gardens
Created by: KittyKat
Record added: Jul 23, 2008
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