Suspect in Sunshine Inn shooting was previously discharged from Veterans Court, had two other warrants for his arrest

Staff report

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Henry Lee Pope, 63, was arrested early this morning and charged with attempted first-degree murder after allegedly shooting a man in the parking lot of the Sunshine Inn (4155 NW 13th Street) last night.

Witnesses at the scene told Gainesville Police Department officers that Pope and the victim had argued in the parking lot in front of Pope’s apartment at the Sunshine Inn, then Pope got a gun from his apartment and shot the victim in the neck. The victim was transported to UF Health Shands and taken into surgery.

Officers learned that Pope is the only resident of the apartment where the shooting took place, and witnesses reported that Pope walked away in a northbound direction on NW 13th Street after the shooting. Patrol officers reportedly found a fanny pack containing a firearm on the ground along the wall of the northernmost building at Sunshine Inn.

Surveillance video at the Sunshine Inn reportedly showed the entire incident. The video shows Pope putting the firearm into a fanny pack after the shooting and then trying to give the fanny pack to a bystander; that person identified Pope to the officers at the scene and said he had known Pope for about three years.

Another witness heard gunshots and came out of his own apartment with his gun. He told officers that he saw a man walking away from the property with an unknown female; he positively identified Pope in a photo line-up as the man he had seen walking away.

Officers reportedly found Pope hiding in a bush about one block north of the Sunshine Inn at about 12:41 a.m.

Post Miranda, Pope reportedly said he had been playing checkers with another man in the parking lot outside his apartment and that the victim, who he said was intoxicated, was hanging out with them and kept leaning on and falling on Pope’s vehicle. Pope said he asked the victim multiple times to stay away from his vehicle, but he didn’t stop. Pope said he went into his apartment to get his fanny pack, which contained a Ruger handgun; he said he held the fanny pack up and said to the victim, “I got something in here if you don’t go.” He said that as he walked back toward his apartment, he saw the victim leaning on his vehicle again, so he pulled the gun out of the fanny pack and walked toward the victim, pointing the gun at him. Pope reportedly said he wasn’t sure whether the victim hit his hand or if he jerked his own hand, firing the gun, but he said he didn’t believe his finger was on the trigger. He said after the victim was shot, he put the gun back into the fanny pack and tried to give it to two different people who refused to take it. He said he then put the fanny pack on the north side of the building and hid behind the bush.

Pope was previously arrested in May 2021 for possession of crack cocaine. His case was transferred to Veterans Court, and he was placed in a residential rehabilitation program. However, he did not report to treatment as required after he left the program, and he was re-arrested in October 2021. A few weeks later, he was released to outpatient treatment and placed back under Veterans Court supervision.

Another violation report was submitted in December 2021, stating that he had failed four drug tests and had not reported to Court Services for seven days in a row. He was arrested again on December 14, and in February 2022 he was placed into a residential treatment facility. In March 2022, another violation report was submitted, stating that he had failed four drug tests and “continues to use substances daily.” He was arrested again on March 24, 2022, and was released on his own recognizance the next day with a contact address of the Sunshine Inn. At some point, he was admitted to another residential program but left against medical advice.

On January 5, 2023, Judge Phillip Pena signed an order unsuccessfully discharging Pope from Veterans Court for failing to comply with the conditions of the program, and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Pope has also been charged with stealing $231 in items from Walmart in 2019, and that case was also transferred to Veterans Court after his May 2021 arrest. In a March 2021 letter to Judge Walter Green, Pope wrote that he had served in the Army and had been in the Veterans Court in Macon, Georgia, before coming to Gainesville “to have another chance to live and be a good person.” He said his “drinking and drugging (self-medicating)” had “got out of hand” and asked the judge for “mercy from you and Jehovah GOD. But please no jail.” A warrant for his arrest on the petit theft charge was also issued in January 2023 after he failed to comply with Veterans Court conditions.

Pope is facing charges of first-degree attempted murder, cocaine possession, and petit theft. Bail information is unavailable on weekends.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

    • I don’t understand it either their is laws that says a felon can’t have a gun yet you have left wing idiots who keep wanting more gun laws maybe they should teach felons to read then they would know they can’t process a firearm

  • He may get charged with more at a later date. It’s crazy how he is working the VA system. Obviously a mental issue and needs to be locked up so he may get treatment

  • Ain’t no sunshine while he’s away.
    It’s not warm when he’s away
    Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone
    And he’s always gone not long enough
    Anytime he goes away.
    Bill Withers supplies the chorus….

  • Worth repeating… can’t help those who don’t want it. Can’t fix those who don’t think something’s wrong.

    He’s had opportunities and chances, one of those chances almost cost someone else their life. Maybe he’s just misunderstood…sure he is, and the leprechaun has your pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.

  • Shut down sunshine inn and other panhandler residential ex-motel facilities and sell them to pay off GRU debt. That includes several other ex-motels subsidized by the city, GRACE too — and relocate M E R I D I A N to another county. Their aging repeat offender clients cannot make it here, obviously. Only low class lawyers feed like parasites off these poor souls.

  • As many shootings at the Sunshine Inn as there are on NE 8 Ave on the ‘slab.’ Good to see GPD leadership putting a stop to gun violence.

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