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Fla. man tries to burn ‘possessed’ 9-year-old boy in fire

Highlands County Fire-Rescue units were initially sent to a report of people burning debris on the side of a road

Fla. child saved from being burned alive

Highlands County Fire-Rescue units from Station 19 on George Blvd. were dispatched to the scene, and due to the suspicious nature of the incident, law enforcement was also requested to respond.

Highlands County Sheriff’s Office

By Mark Price
The Sacramento Bee

HIGHLANDS COUNTY, Fla. — A frenzied attempt to burn a “possessed” 9-year-old boy alive came to an abrupt end when a Florida deputy killed one of the adults involved, according to investigators.

The fatally shot man was identified as Richard Myron Ham, 39, and witnesses say he is the one who placed the boy in the fire, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

It happened at about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, in Sebring, and the boy escaped serious burns after refusing to stay in the flames, officials said. Sebring is about 95 miles southeast of Tampa.

Investigators say it was the fire department that first confronted Ham, after receiving calls about “several people burning piles of debris on the side of Bay Blossom Drive .”

“Deputies quickly arrived on scene and found Ham armed with two metal rods. Ham refused to follow deputies’ orders and a taser was deployed. The taser did not appear to have an effect,” the sheriff’s office said.

“Ham pulled the taser probes from his body and re-armed himself with one of the bars. He then swung the bar and struck a deputy in the head. At that point ... one of the deputies fired his agency-issued firearm.”

Both Ham and the deputy were taken to hospitals. Ham was pronounced dead, and the deputy was treated and released, officials said.

Detectives say Ham and the boy’s mother Lakenya Lavonn Phillips were in the process of burning the boy’s possessions when the fire department showed up, officials said.

“They believed he was possessed by a demon,” the sheriff’s office said. “At one point, witnesses said, Ham put the child into the fire and covered him with a blanket that was also on fire. The child was able to escape.”

Details of the boy’s injuries were not released.

The boy and his mother were reported as “missing and endangered” Dec. 6 by authorities in Wichita, Kansas, the sheriff’s officials said.

Ham and Phillips were in a dating relationship, and it’s not known “when or why they came to Highlands County,” officials said.

“Immediately after the shooting, Phillips began to push deputies as they tried to secure Ham and render aid,” the sheriff’s office reported.

“Phillips, 30, is in the Highlands County Jail on charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and cruelty toward a child.”

“Multiple firearms and drugs” were found during a search of the vehicle used by Ham, officials said.

An investigation into the shooting will be handled by the 10th Judicial Circuit Officer Involved Deadly Incident Task Force, officials said.

The deputies involved in the incident will be on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

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