Eustis police officer shoots, kills man suspected of child sex crimes
- A Leesburg man suspected of sexual misconduct with a child was shot to death by a Eustis police officer after he threatened the officer during an investigation, authorities said Wednesday.
The shooting happened about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Laurel Oaks apartment complex off U.S. Highway 441, west of Leesburg International Airport.
Eustis police were alongside Leesburg officers investigating allegations that Vernum H. Blunk, 47, was involved in sexual misconduct with a child under 12 years old. Police believe the abuse took place in both cities and that Blunk possessed child pornography, according to both agencies.
- Eustis police Chief Fred Cobb said officers were invited into the apartment and were interviewing Blunk at the time of the shooting. During the investigation authorities say Blunk “armed himself with a handgun” that was hidden in the apartment and threatened Eustis Detective Sgt. Gary Winheim.
Cobb said Blunk “brandished” the weapon and refused to obey Winheim’s verbal commands. Winheim -the only officer to fire – felt his life was in jeopardy, the chief said.
It’s unclear how long officers were inside the apartment before Blunk went for his gun. Several shots were fired during the incident, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is investigating the shooting as is standard for officer-involved shootings. An FDLE records search turned up no previous arrests. Winheim was placed on administrative, standard procedure in officer-involved shootings. He supervises the detective division and has been with the agency since March 1996.
Eustis police in March 2012 investigated Blunk for possibly groping an 11-year-old girl while helping her with cheerleading stunts, but the allegations were unfounded, reports show. Cobb said that case “more than likely” will be reopened based on new information authorities received Tuesday.