A Winter Haven man stabbed his mother at her home Wednesday morning, June 10, 2020, then shot at three Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies, forcing the deputies to return fire. 36-year-old Phillip Dibenedetto died at the scene, and his 62-year-old mother was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center in stable condition.
The Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call at about 6:50 a.m., reporting that the 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 chest, though later he told 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. They were told that Dibenedetto had run to his apartment inside of a stable on the same property. Deputies went to find him.
Upon locating Dibenedetto in his room, he told deputies that he had a gun. The deputies began a dialogue and continued talking to him for about twenty 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 said to them at least fifty times to kill him.
Throughout the interaction, Dibenedetto was unarmed, but extremely agitated and uncooperative. He retreated deeper into his apartment to where his gun was located.
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 Sgt. Buoniconti’s head. Deputies Brandon Johnson and Andy Stephens returned fire, striking Dibenedetto multiple times, and fatally wounding him.
The victim told deputies that she has had no recent arguments with her son, and does not know why he stabbed her. Dibenedetto has been suffering from mental health issues for about twenty 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. 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.