Widow of Pasco veteran killed after use of Taser speaks out

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area woman breaks her silence only to News Channel 8 as she searches for justice and tries to raise awareness for a disorder that countless veterans face.

Laura Sellinger’s husband, John, an Air Force veteran, survived the enemy battlefields, only to die at the hands of a Pasco County Sheriff’s deputy.

“My husband and I had a fairy tale love,” Sellinger said as she showed us family pictures and her husband’s dog tags.

Laura and John were high school sweethearts.

They joined the military together right after 9/11 and served side-by-side, but it was a battle inside John that would eventually take his life.

“He suffered,” she said. “He suffered greatly.”

John served in the Air Force as a mechanic and served half a dozen deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a dozen other deployments across the world, but the embedded images of war would leave him scarred when he returned home.

“And we all did our best, and we couldn’t help him, but he’s not the only one out there like that,” Laura told News Channel 8.

It culminated on the afternoon of December 30th.  John disappeared and was classified as missing and endangered.

Just a few hours later, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported an incident where John reportedly tried to carjack a victim, broke the window of another vehicle in an attempt to steal it and also tried to steal a motorcycle from a 70-year-old man.

The 70-year-old reportedly pulled out a gun and pointed it at John.

The sheriff’s office reports that John almost choked the 70-year-old into unconsciousness before several bystanders got involved.

When deputies arrived on scene, they say John refused to comply and they were forced to deploy a Taser on him.  He then ran for it and after a deputy caught up with him, he pepper-sprayed him and when that didn’t work, they used the Taser a second time.

Before paramedics got there, John went into distress and later died at the hospital.

Laura said John snapped.

“It was a psychotic break and he needed help, but he didn’t deserve to die,” she said.  “He wasn’t a maniac on a rampage. He was scared.”

Some studies show four out of five veterans suffer like John did and now, Laura says she can’t stand by and do nothing.  Not just for her and their son, Johnny, Jr., but for all of the veterans who suffer and their families.

“I still have my veteran friends who are there for me and we’re going to try and turn this into a positive,” Laura said.

John never had a record and his wife said the sheriff’s office used excessive force and that they should have better training.

In response to our inquiries, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco sent News Channel 8 a statement.  It read:

“Our deputies, who are trained in mental health encounters, used less lethal force in responding to an armed, violent individual who was choking a senior citizen after an attempted carjacking.  After this series of violent events, our deputies then attempted life saving measures on the suspect.”

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