EXCLUSIVE: Key questions in ‘stray-round’ killing answered in search warrant documents

Lee’s note: I just published this on the Herald-Tribune site.

By Lee Williams

SARASOTA COUNTY — A search warrant may answer key questions for the family and friends of 48-year-old David Morse, who was killed by a single .22 caliber bullet investigators believe was fired from the backyard at 4632 N. Shade.

Morse’s body was found at the end of his driveway on May 16 by a roommate, although he may have been shot the day before.

It wasn’t until several days later that detectives began to piece together how he was killed.

On May 17, according to the search warrant affidavit — in which investigators spell out their probable cause to a judge — officials at the Medical Examiner’s Office contacted Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office detectives and said they had found a small-caliber gunshot wound at the base of Morse’s skull. The projectile had fragmented — only pieces were recovered — and did not exit Morse’s skull.

“The Medical Examiner’s Office presumptively identified the projectile as a .22 caliber round,” the documents state.

Detectives canvased the neighborhood: the 2400 block of 47th Street where Morse lived, the homes around 4632 N. Shade and the 2400 block of Golf Course Drive.

On May 16, the Sheriff’s Office had received a complaint that a condominium owner in the 2400 block of Golf Course Drive had discovered

David A. Morse

David A. Morse

two small-caliber bullet holes in their window. The condo owner found one round on the floor, which detectives seized as evidence. The condo is across an open field from 4632 N. Shade.

Following the canvas, detectives were told about an accidental shooting at 4632 N. Shade, which occurred about a month before Morse was killed.

Todd Johnson, 29, had shot himself in the knee with a . 40 caliber Glock 22 “while cleaning his gun.”

Johnson is the son of April Lipstein, who is listed as the homeowner, along with her husband, Michael Lipstein.

“While Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office patrol was on scene for the accidental discharge, Johnson was telling deputies about his new .22 caliber firearm,” the court documents state.

Sheriff’s detectives later went to interview Johnson about Morse’s death.

“Johnson denied shooting any firearms, but claimed he had friends over at his house that may have fired his gun,” the report states. “Johnson showed detectives his firearms, which were located in his bedroom. While viewing Johnson’s firearms, detectives observed . 22 caliber ammunition in his bedroom.”

Johnson voluntarily turned over the ammunition to detectives, who asked him to meet them at the Sheriff’s Office for an interview.

Johnson never showed up, so the detectives went back to his home to talk with him.

During the interview, Johnson claimed he and some friends were drinking during the afternoon of May 15.

“Johnson further stated he showed his friends his new .22 caliber firearm,” reports state. “Johnson claimed he consumed too much alcohol and passed out on the living room couch. Johnson claimed one of his friends may have taken his firearm and discharged it in the backyard while he was passed out.”

Johnson refused to provide the deputies with the names of his five friends.

Another version

While he was talking to detectives, Johnson also admitted he had spoken to a family friend, Karen Bang, about the shooting. Bang’s husband is a Sarasota County sheriff’s deputy.

As they were leaving, the detectives also noticed bullet holes in the backyard fence, which they described as “consistent with gunfire.”

They then interviewed Bang, who told them that she had run into Johnson as he was walking on Ringling Boulevard, and stopped to talk to him.

“Bang was contacted and stated Johnson told her he had been drinking and shot his firearm at the wood fence in the backyard of his residence on 05/15/16,” the report states.

“Bang stated Johnson informed her about a shooting incident in which two rounds went into a residence to the east of his backyard,” the reports state. “Bang said Johnson claimed five other subjects were present at his residence drinking. Johnson told Bang his girlfriend was going to testify he was passed out during the shooting, but Johnson told Bang he fired the gun.

“Johnson told Bang when detectives were at his residence earlier, they collected .22 caliber ammunition and his step-father’s . 22 caliber rifle, but the ammunition used in the shooting was currently under his mattress, and the firearm used in the shooting was also still in his residence. Johnson additionally told Bang he and his father were repairing the wooden fence due to bullet holes being visible.”

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

10 Comments

  1. Lenny Bruce, do you have a drink and occassionaly drive? If so, it must be your people who kill while DUI. Do you ever take pain pills? Must be your people addicted to same. Do you ever eat fast food? Must be your people dropping dead from obesity related ailments. Did you ever procreate? Must be your people whose children grow up to be pedophiles and murderers. According to your illogical statement, I don’t see how you can type with so much blood on your hands. Whackjob! Keep up the good work Lee, ignore the left nuts!

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