LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) — Two people were killed, including the suspect, after a disgruntled customer angered by a car repair from two years ago stormed into Stout’s Automotive in Largo Wednesday and shot the owner, according to police.
Officers were called to the auto repair shop at 1801 S Belcher Road in Largo around 11:30 a.m. after several callers reported an active shooting.
“I saw a bunch of police cars pulling up, rapidly, coming down the road. I heard the sirens,” said Arden Dittmer. “I saw the cars pulling in and police officers rushing towards the building.”
When officers arrived, they found two individuals both suffering from gunshot wounds in the shop’s office area. Both people were rushed to area hospitals where they were they later died as a result of their injuries.
Dittmer owns Around the Town Signs, a business across the street from Stout’s. He texted the owner, Jodie Stout, as he saw what happened.
“Then I see the guys with the helmets and the gear with the guns going up and getting around the building and all that, so I knew things were bad. He didn’t respond me,” Dittmer recalled. “After watching for a few minutes, I saw the SWAT team or whoever with the shields go up to the front of the building, drag somebody away and start performing CPR.”
Scrambling to make sense of the incident, detectives learned that 78-year-old Eugene Becker, a former customer of the shop, drove a rental car to Stout’s Automotive and asked to speak with the shop’s owner, 52-year-old Jodie Stout, at the front desk.
After Becker confirmed he was speaking with Stout, he brandished a gun and fired in Stout’s direction, police said. Stout then retrieved his own firearm and returned fire in Becker’s direction.
“I honestly don’t have a clue why he would come here and start trouble here,” said Dittmer.
“The two exchanged multiple rounds of gunfire, during which time both Becker and Stout suffered life-threatening injuries,” the Largo Police Department said.
“Jodie was a great guy,” Dittmer said. “He’s going to be missed.”
Dittmer said he’s known Stout for at least six years, and some of Dittmer’s Jeeps are in Stout’s garage. Dittmer also did all the signage for Stout’s shop.
“Just a good, honest guy,” Dittmer said. “He believed in good, family values. His son works for him, his wife works with him, helps out.”
Becker’s family members later told detectives that he visited Stout’s Automotive in 2021 for a service to a vehicle he owned at the time. Becker was reportedly displeased with the service he received “and may have felt as though he was overcharged,” authorities said.
On Sep. 18, 2023, Becker was hospitalized and his car was totaled in a crash in Pinellas Park.
A family member told investigators that Becker had become “somewhat depressed and extremely frustrated” since the accident.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, it appears as though Becker responded to Stout’s Automotive with the intent to shoot the victim in retaliation for the perceived wrong from 2021,” police added.