Man shot dead by police after throwing his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son into fire

SEBRING, FL – A local man has been fatally shot by law enforcement after violently assaulting a deputy with a metal pole. Richard Ham, 39, came under scrutiny after setting fire to the belongings of his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son. He did so because he allegedly believed that the child was ‘demon-possessed.’

The Highland County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call about suspicious roadside debris on fire around 4 p.m. last Tuesday, only to be confronted by Ham menacingly wielding a pair of metal poles. According to witnesses, Ham had forced the boy into the fire and enwrapped him in a flaming blanket, although the child was able to escape without sustaining serious injuries.

Ham’s refusal to comply with orders from deputies at the scene to surrender led to an attempt to subdue him using a Taser, but to no avail. After being attacked by Ham with a rod, one deputy retaliated by opening fire on Ham. This response left the suspect fatally wounded, and Ham later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

While the assaulted officer was treated for a blow to the head and later discharged, the focus switched to Ham’s girlfriend, Lakenya Phillips. Her and her son were both considered missing two weeks prior to the incident.

Her son, who has since been assigned to the Department of Children and Families, testified to having remained unbathed and unfed for extended periods, and to regular drug use from his mother and Ham. The child alleged that Ham threatened him with a knife that Ham claimed to have used to murder someone.

Drugs and multiple firearms were discovered in Ham and Phillips’ possession in their vehicle. Charges against Phillips, placed in custody, include attempted murder of an officer, battery of an officer, and resisting arrest with violence. In court, prosecutors also revealed intentions to charge Phillips with felony murder over allegations her actions contributed to Ham’s death.

Ham had previously been found guilty of armed felonies and drug possession in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Georgia.