Pinellas deputies cleared in fatal shooting of man who killed his mother

John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Jamal Thalji  |  Tampa Bay Times
Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Jamal Thalji | Tampa Bay Times
Published September 21

In August, a man killed his mother and another man with a shotgun. Then he returned to his mother’s condo, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, slowly driving towards the crime scene with a 12-gauge shotgun in his lap.

Deputies were already there. They said John Clark wouldn’t stop his car or put down the weapon. Then he raised the shotgun and pointed it out the passenger-side window, the agency said.

Three deputies opened fire on Clark, killing him on that Aug. 3 day, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Those deputies shot Clark “in the lawful performance of their legal duties,” according to a report produced by Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe’s Office into the shooting.

The report, sent to Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri on Friday, ruled that Clark’s death was “justifiable homicide.” The report also discloses new details of the murder investigation and how Clark died.

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Clark, 35, used his mother’s phone to call a friend in Illinois at 1:19 a.m. on Aug. 3. Clark said he killed his mother and vowed that he wouldn’t go to jail. He would “kill himself or would go out in a blaze of glory,” the report said.

The friend called Florida authorities, and at about 2:30 a.m. Pinellas deputies discovered 64-year-old Susan Clark shot and killed in her condominium at 2360 Flanders Way, left wrapped in blankets. Deputies found ammunition in the home, the report said, but the shotgun they believed was used to kill her was gone, and so was her blue Volkswagen Eos.

Deputies had the mother’s cell phone tracked and realized John Clark was nearby. Two deputies spotted Clark driving on Baldwin Avenue, toward his mother’s condo, and tried to pull him over at about 4:19 a.m. He ignored commands given over their vehicle loudspeakers to stop, the report said.

Three deputies at the crime scene positioned themselves near the approaching car. The first one to see the shotgun was Deputy Chris Amatruda, 33, who stood by the passenger side and told investigators he saw it on Clark’s lap.

He stood next to Deputy Brennen Wede, 26, who was armed with a semiautomatic rifle. Wede told investigators he did not see the shotgun until Clark raised it up. The car passed Deputy Brian Williams, 37, who ran after it.

“They were telling him, ‘Drop the gun! Stop the car! Drop the gun! Stop the car!’,” Gualtieri said at a news conference the day of the Aug. 3 shooting. “He did neither.”

The report said Wede shouted to the other deputies that he saw the shotgun and, fearing for their lives, he fired five rounds at Clark. Amatruda said he fired one round because he believed Wede was in danger. Williams said he fired one round when he heard Wede yell about the shotgun.

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The deputies removed the shotgun from the car and tried to help Clark. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where he was pronounced dead at 5:10 a.m.

Inside the car deputies said they found the wallet of an acquaintance, Michael Robinson, 54. Deputies went to his Clearwater home and found him dead from a gunshot wound. Investigators believe Clark killed his mother, then Robinson.

Clark had no known criminal history, the Sheriff’s Office said. But his sister in Texas told them their mother was trying to get him help while he struggled with drug addiction and mental illness.

Williams has been on the force the longest, since 2005. Wede was hired in 2014 and Amatruda in 2016. The Sheriff’s Office did not say if those deputies were re-assigned during the investigation or their current duty status.