By ALICIA LEONARD
What started as a domestic violence situation, escalated quickly into the deaths of two Okaloosa County deputies in the line of duty and ended with the shooter being killed in a gun battle by Walton County law enforcement.
At 10:23 a.m., Okaloosa deputy sheriff’s Bryan Miller and Jeffrey Morgan were dispatched to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center regarding a domestic battery incident that had already occurred. There, they took a statement from Elizabeth Cartwright, who stated that she had been battered by her husband, Joshua Cartwright, at their apartment in Fort Walton Beach.
In a sworn statement, Elizabeth said Joshua had awakened her that morning and he became agitated because he “couldn’t find the ‘Clearsil’ in the bathroom.” Over the next 30 minutes, Elizabeth told officers that she was repeatedly hit in the face, thrown around and had her hair pulled by Joshua. She had two cell phones and two guns taken away from her by her husband when she tried to call for help and defend herself. Elizabeth was eventually able to escape from the apartment and drive herself to the FWB Medical Center.
Morgan noted in his report that Elizabeth had abrasions and swelling under her chin and a large bruise and abrasion to her right arm. Joshua had been arrested in November 2008 for domestic battery against Elizabeth and, according to the Okaloosa County Clerk of Court Web site, that charge was still pending, although Elizabeth told the two deputies that took her statement that “prosecution in the case been deferred on the condition that Joshua was to attend counseling for his anger and that he had not been attending the classes and had been laid-off from his job the day prior.”
Elizabeth was advised not to return to the apartment that she shared with her husband and she told deputies that Joshua had multiple guns and knives in the apartment and was a member of the U.S. Army National Guard. Elizabeth also advised the deputies that Joshua would not be inclined to come out of the apartment if they approached him there, considering his behavior during an incident in the past.
An unmarked patrol car was dispatched to the Cartwright’s apartment, but Joshua was not there. Elizabeth informed the deputies what make and model truck Joshua was driving and that he had made plans to meet friends at the Shoal River Gun Club in Crestview.
After verifying that Joshua was not at the apartment, an arrest bulletin was broadcast for him at 12:28 p.m. Morgan also advised his dispatch that weapons were involved, that Cartwright had military training and “probable cause existed for his arrest on the charges of false imprisonment and battery.”
Sgt. West, a north district supervisor for the OCSO, informed Morgan that he had sent units to the Shoal River Gun Club area to search for Cartwright. Morgan said that he received a call at 12:50 p.m. stating that two deputies had been shot and the suspect was fleeing with Okaloosa and Walton County deputies in pursuit.
Deputy Burt Lopez, 45, and Deputy Warren “Skip” York, 45, were shot at the Shoal River Clay Sporting Gun Range east of Crestview shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday. It has been reported that the deputies were both wearing bullet-proof vests and had tased Joshua Cartwright, due to his being “uncooporative.” Cartwright went down to the ground and came back up firing at the deputies with a concealed firearm. Both suffered multiple wounds to areas that were not protected by their vests and were pronounced dead at Sacred Heart Hospital, after being life-flighted from the scene.
By 1 p.m., WCSO deputies were laying out spikes near the U.S. 90 and U.S. 331N intersection. Cartwright went around the spikes and was run off the road by a WCSO deputy. He exited the vehicle and began firing upon the deputies and DeFuniak Springs police officers. Both returned fire at Cartwright, resulting in Cartwright’s death.
Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson later said that around 50-60 rounds were exchanged in the gun battle and that the State Attorney’s office had already confirmed that the force used to stop Cartwright was justified and necessary.
Cartwright’s wife, Elizabeth, was located and told of her husband’s death and the death of both deputies. Morgen’s report states that she displayed “equal emotion over the two deputies death as she did over her husband’s death.” She said her husband believed that the U.S. government was conspiring against him, as was severely disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected president.
Michele Nicholson, public information officer for the OCSO, released the following statement from Okaloosa interm Sheriff Ed Spooner: “The two Okaloosa deputies killed earlier while attempting to arrest a domestic violence suspect were fine men and excellent deputies who enjoyed serving the public. Prior to joining the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy York and Deputy Lopez served with the U.S. Air Force. Deputy Lopez joined the OCSO in October 2003. Deputy York joined the agency in February 2007.” During a press conference held the night of the shootings, Spooner told the press, “We did lose two very fine men today. I don’t think anybody anticipated this would get to the level it did as quickly as it did.”
Both men had families and funds have been setup to help those families. Accounts have been set up for both the Lopez and York family through the Okaloosa County Law Enforcement Benevolent Association at Beach Community Bank. Donations can be made at any branch of Beach Community Bank into any of the accounts, including a fund strictly for Deputy Lopez’s family, a fund strictly for Deputy York’s family, a combined fund to be equally distributed to Deputy Lopez’s family and Deputy York’s family or general donations may be made to the Okaloosa Law Enforcement Benevolent Association.
For more information, visit Beach Community Bank’s web site at http://www.beachcommunitybank.com.
According to the OCSO, funeral services for the fallen officers will include a joint visitation for Deputy Sheriff Burt Lopez and Deputy Sheriff Warren “Skip” York, to be held on Wednesday, April 29 from 5‐9 p.m. at the Crestview Community Center, located at 1446 Commerce Center in Crestview. Funeral services for Deputy Sheriff Burt Lopez will be held on Thursday, April 30, at 3 p.m. at Central Baptist Church, located at 951 Ferdon Boulevard in Crestview. Burial to follow at Heritage Gardens Cemetery, located at 2201 Partin Drive North in Niceville. Funeral services for Deputy Sheriff Warren “Skip” York will be held on Friday, May 1, at 10 a.m. at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, located at 110 Saint Mary Avenue SW in Fort Walton Beach. Burial to follow at Barrancas National Cemetery, located at 80 Hovey Road in Pensacola.
The U.S. Honor Flag was scheduled to come to the Crestview area to honor slain law enforcement officers Deputy Warren “Skip” York and Deputy Burt Lopez, of Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, who were killed on April 25. This is a solemn tribute to the two deputies; this flag has flown over Ground Zero, combat areas in Iraq and Afghanistan, and police officer memorials across the country.
The flag will arrive by air at Pensacola at 1:35 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29. The Pensacola Police Department will receive it at the airport with a full honor ceremony. It will be delivered to the Crestview Community Center for the fallen officers’ joint visitations.
Contact Alicia Leonard at email@example.com.