Last Updated: 4:44 p.m.
A man took his own life by gunshot in a car on State Road 100’s westbound lanes, in front of the Mobil station and convenience store, just before the intersection with I-95 in Palm Coast at dawn Tuesday. The scene was still being investigated well into the morning.
The Sheriff’s Office this afternoon identified the man as Michael Bryce Curtis, 36, of Palatka, who appears to have been staying with his 39-year-old girlfriend at a house on Point of Woods Drive in Palm Coast.
The westbound lanes were initially closed to traffic around 5 to 6 a.m. One lane opened as rush-hour traffic got under way, with the vehicle involved partially hidden from view by sheriff’s vehicles and the Crime Scene Investigation van.
At 4:40 a.m. the Flagler County 911 dispatch center got information that a man had written a letter to his girlfriend, threatening suicide.
Mark Strobridge, a Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesman, said deputies responded. They had information about the vehicle the man may have been driving.
“We observed him driving a car, we then tried to get him to stop,” Strobridge said.”We did follow him down the road, there’s no doubt about that.” It wasn’t yet clear, however, where deputies began following, and if at that point deputies had initiated a pursuit or were merely following the man in an attempt to carry out a traffic stop. But deputies were responding to what was perceived as “a very dangerous position for the community to be in, to have somebody there with a gun,” Strobridge said.
Curtis stopped in front of the Mobil convenience store. The vehicle this morning looked as if it had pulled over onto the shoulder. The details of what happened next are unclear, Strobridge said, but at some point the car was flood-lit with deputies’ lights. There was no response from Curtis in the car.
The crisis-negotiating team was “rolling to respond” as the issue was unfolding by the side of the road, Strobridge said. “As far as I know, nobody saw anything like a muzzle flash, but that’s not 100 percent because they’re still interviewing,” Strobridge said of investigators. “The only thing I know for sure is that we did not fire any weapons.”
A case report the Sheriff’s Office issued later this afternoon indicates that a sheriff’s deputy was first alerted to what may have been a Baker Act, at 4:45 a.m., at a location on Point of Woods Drive: At around 4:40 a.m., Curtis himself called 911, telling dispatchers he was worried that his girlfriend at a house on Point of Woods may have taken a lethal dose of medication in an attempt to end her life. Curtis spoke fast and was difficult to understand, and he would not answer dispatchers’ questions. But, the report states, he also threatened to kill himself if deputies could not find his girlfriend.
When the deputy made contact with his girlfriend on Point of Woods, she appeared to be fine, confused about what was taking place, and not at all meeting the criteria for a Baker Act. The deputy moved on to asking her about Curtis. While speaking with her, a note was found on the front door with a silver, spent shell casing for a .380 caliber bullet taped to it. The note read that if Curtis did not hear from his girlfriend, he would kill himself before sunrise. The note read: “gun works.”
The couple had been in a verbal argument the previous evening. No threats were spoken. All Curtis had told his girlfriend before leaving, she told deputies, was that he was driving to the beach. His girlfriend, the report states, “could not provide much information on the incident or on Curtis and she appeared to be withholding information,” insisting that she was tired and wanted to go back to bed. She said that as Curtis was leaving the house, she’d heard “what sounded like a gunshot outside the front door,” according to the report. She would not provide a written statement.
But the 911 dispatch center was able to get Curtis back on the phone. He told a dispatcher he was on his way back to Point of Woods Drive, but that he would not stop if he did not see his girlfriend outside. Deputies convinced her to text him and tell him she was ok. He did not acknowledge the text.
Deputies then observed a blue Toyota Camry on Old Kings Road, approaching the intersection with State Road 100. They confirmed that it was Curtis’s vehicle. The shooting took place shortly after that.
The stretch of State Road 100 where the shooting took place was an active investigation scene =for several hours as the Palm Coast Fire Police regulated traffic around it. It had been cleared before noon.