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Crime & Courts

Tampa officer cleared in shooting of naked woman

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 06:43 PM

TAMPA A Tampa police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing after he and a deputy fatally shot a naked woman who appeared to be threatening them, according to the State Attorney's Office.

William Mechler, who was a sworn Tampa officer for only four weeks at the time of the Oct. 20 shooting, has been reinstated to active duty, police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.

Mechler, 26, is currently participating in a 16-week training program that's required for all Tampa officers before they start patrol on their own, Davis said.

Mechler and Hernando County sheriff's deputy Rocky Howard, 31, were both off-duty when Inga Marie Swanson, 42, approached them in Howard's Spring Hill neighborhood.

The incident began when Swanson walked up to Howard's neighbors, a father and his young son, and said "I love you" to the child repeatedly, assistant state attorney Richard Ridgway wrote in a memorandum to Tampa police Chief Jane Castor and Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Mechler and Howard checked to see if Swanson, who was naked and seemed to be disoriented, needed help.

Swanson lay down in the road and made growling noises, Ridgway said. She called the officers obscenities then left.

She returned several minutes later with an old .22 caliber pistol, the memo said.

"This is a heist," Swanson said. "The kid is coming with me."

Mechler and Howard both drew their weapons and ordered Swanson to stop and drop the weapon, Ridgway wrote.

The officers fired when Swanson didn't comply with their orders. Ridgway's memo didn't say how many shots were fired, but one bullet went through her heart.

Mechler and Howard tried to administer first aid, but Swanson died before paramedics arrived. The gun was not loaded and "in fact inoperable due to missing parts," Ridgway wrote.

The gun belonged to Swanson's boyfriend and was displayed as a decoration in his house, investigators said.

When detectives interviewed Swanson's boyfriend, he told them that she "recently began acting very agitated and very concerned" about the presidential election, Ridgway said.

"She was having mood swings, from very happy to very sad," the memo said.

Medical examiners said Swanson had a small amount of marijuana in her system but no other drugs or alcohol.

rreyes@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7920