A 25-hour drama that played out on TV screens and social media ended Sunday when a 39-year-old man who had barricaded himself and his 6-year-old daughter against SWAT teams released the girl and then committed suicide.
The episode began when Gary Cauley came to his estranged wife’s house on Dartmouth Road in north Lakeland around 4 a.m. Saturday and the two began arguing. It escalated Saturday afternoon when he became enraged that his wife, Amie, planned to go to the beach with a man he didn’t like. He armed himself and said his daughter could not leave the house.
After Amie Cauley contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, deputies stayed in contact with Gary Cauley for the next 24+ hours, except for a five-hour period when he and his daughter fell asleep. Officers tried to convince him to release the girl and to surrender. Authorities said he made no threats against the child.
By 1:20 p.m. Sunday, Gary Cauley released the child. In attempts to get him to come out, deputies sent a robot into the house to punch a hole into the closet where he was hiding. Then they pumped in chemicals designed to get him to come outside.
Gary Cauley, who had been convicted of violent crimes and said he didn’t want to go back to jail, came to a window and opened the door. Ultimately, he put a handgun to his mouth and ended his life.
The 6-year-old is in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families, which will determine whether it’s safe to reunite her with Amie Cauley, according to Sheriff Grady Judd.
In the aftermath of the standoff, The Ledger drew severe criticism online (here, too) after it published photos on its website and Facebook of Gary Cauley pointing the gun to his head and in his mouth just before he committed suicide. The photos were later removed from the website and Facebook and were not published in print.
Earlier in the day, the newspaper had received reader praise online for its sensitive handling of suicide in a lengthy article involving a young man’s untimely death and the way his parents channeled their grief into music and joy for others.