According to officials from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, a Winter Haven man stabbed his mother at her home Wednesday morning, June 10, then shot at three Polk County Sheriff's Office deputies, forcing the deputies to return fire.
Phillip Dibenedetto, 36, died at the scene, and his 62-year-old mother was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center in stable condition.
Per a release, Polk County’s Emergency Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call at about 6:50 a.m. that day reporting that a woman had been stabbed by her son.
According to the preliminary investigation, Dibenedetto walked into his mother's residence and asked her for coffee, then told her to turn around toward him. When she did, he stabbed her in the chest, later telling deputies he tried to stab her in the neck.
When deputies arrived at the family horse ranch off of Overlook Drive, the victim was found at her residence. Responding officers were told that Dibenedetto had run to his apartment inside of a stable on the same property and deputies went to find him.
Upon locating Dibenedetto, he told deputies that he had a gun. Per the report, the deputies began a dialogue and continued talking to him for about 20 minutes while trying to end the matter peacefully.
While deputies were communicating with him from the door, he repeatedly told them that he had purchased a Glock 19 recently, had been planning for this, and was prepared to die. He repeatedly told them to shoot him while pointing to his chest, and allegedly instructed them to kill him on several occasions.
PCSO officials say Sgt. Paul Buoniconti attempted to subdue Dibenedetto with his taser, but he had little reaction to it. Dibenedetto lunged over a recliner, grabbed his gun, and managed to fire at least one shot, which narrowly missed Buoniconti's head. Deputies Brandon Johnson and Andy Stephens returned fire, striking Dibenedetto multiple times and fatally wounding him.
"This is an unfortunate reminder of just how dangerous this job is — especially when responding to domestic violence calls and calls related to mental illness,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said in a release. “Our deputies did everything they could to deescalate the situation and bring it to a peaceful end, but they were put into a position where they had to protect each other."
The victim told deputies that she has had no recent arguments with her son, and does not know why he stabbed her. Per the release, Dibenedetto has been suffering from mental health issues for about 20 years, but did not take medications, opting instead to self-medicate with marijuana.
Standard protocol for all deputy-involved shootings will include four independent investigations. The PCSO Homicide Unit will conduct a death investigation. Administrative Investigations will conduct an administrative inquiry. The State Attorney's Office will conduct a separate investigation and the 10th District Medical Examiner office will conduct an investigation to determine the cause and manner of death.
Per agency protocol the members involved will be on administrative leave with pay during the initial phase of the investigation.