LAKE PLACID, Fla. – A Highlands County sheriff’s deputy who was shot and critically wounded Sunday while responding to a dispute over a cat has died, officials with the Sheriff's Office said.
Sheriff's officials said Deputy William Gentry was called to a neighbor dispute involving a cat that allegedly had been shot.
Gentry spoke to Joseph Edward Ables, 69, who was suspected of shooting the cat, and he shot Gentry, officials said.
Gentry, 40, was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital in critical condition, but later died of his injuries.
"It is with tremendous sadness that we report that Deputy William J. Gentry Jr. passed away at 1:10 p.m. today, May 7, at Lee Memorial Hospital as a result of his injuries," the Highlands County Sheriff's Office said in a tweet. "Please keep his family and our HCSO family in your prayers."
Highland County Sheriff Paul Blackman said Gentry was with the Sheriff's Office for more than nine years and served as one of the department's field-training deputies. Gentry's brother also works at the Sheriff's Office as a detective, Blackman said.
"This is an unimaginable tragedy for our agency," Blackman said while Gentry was fighting for his life. "Our prayers are with Deputy Gentry and his family and we ask that your prayers be with them, also.”
Ables, a convicted felon with a history of violence towards law enforcement, was arrested at the scene and taken to the Highlands County Jail, officials said.
“I have spoken with (Sheriff) Blackman on the deputy shot tonight and offered all state resources,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement on Twitter. “Hurting a LEO is pure evil and we won’t stand for it. I ask all Floridians to pray for the family, the HCSO and all the brave LEOs who go above and beyond every day to keep us safe.”
Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said in a statement that "this attack is a terrible demonstration that evil lurks, and that life is meaningless to some."
"The Sheriffs of Florida have offered our resources to all first responders who are diligently and respectfully working on this tragedy in Highlands county, and who are investigating and bringing justice for our deputy and his family," Adkinson said.
The investigation is ongoing.
Stay with news 6 and ClickOrlando.com for updates on this developing story.