Florida man killed after putting child he thought was ‘possessed’ into fire, striking deputy with rod: sheriff

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Florida man killed after putting child he thought was ‘possessed’ into fire, striking deputy with rod: sheriff

A Florida man accused of trying to burn a 9-year-old boy he believed was demonically possessed, before hitting a sheriff’s deputy in the head with a metal rod, was shot dead on Tuesday, authorities said.

Firefighters responded just after 4 p.m. to reports of a burning pile of debris on the side of Bay Blossom Drive at the intersection of U.S. Route 98 in Sebring, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said.

The situation, however, was deemed suspicious, and deputies were called to help.

Responding deputies arrived and found 39-year-old Richard Myron Ham armed with two metal rods, according to authorities.

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pile of burnt debris

Richard Myron Ham and 30-year-old Lakenya Phillips believed that her 9-year-old son was possessed by a demon and were burning the child’s belongings on the side of a road in Sebring, Florida, authorities said. (Highlands County Sheriff’s Office)

Ham refused to comply with the deputies’ orders, at which point deputies used a Taser on him, though the sheriff’s office said that the Taser did not appear to have any effect.

“Ham pulled the Taser probes from his body and re-armed himself with one of the bars,” Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman said. “He then swung the metal rod and struck a deputy in the head.”

metal rod laying in road

Richard Myron Ham had struck one deputy in the head with a metal rod before he was fatally shot, the sheriff’s office said. (Highlands County Sheriff’s Office)

Another deputy opened fire and struck Ham, officials said. Ham was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The injured deputy was treated at another hospital and released.

During an investigation, deputies learned that Ham and 30-year-old Lakenya Phillips were burning the possessions of Phillips’ 9-year-old son. 

Richard Myron Ham mugshot

Richard Myron Ham had a criminal history that included multiple arrests and convictions for armed felonies and drug possession, authorities said. (Highlands County Sheriff’s Office)

Ham and Phillips believed the child “was possessed by a demon,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Witnesses told deputies that they saw Ham put the child into the fire and cover him with a blanket that was already burning. The sheriff’s office said the child was able to escape the flames and avoid serious injury.

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Phillips and the boy were both listed as missing and endangered in Wichita, Kansas, on Dec. 6, according to authorities. It was unclear when or why the pair came to Highlands County.

Deputies searched Ham and Phillips’ vehicle, finding multiple firearms and drugs inside, officials said without elaborating.

Ham had a criminal history that included convictions for armed felonies and drug possession and multiple arrests in Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia.

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The incident remains under investigation.

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