A makeshift memorial of flowers and notes grew at police headquarters and near the downtown site where the shootings began with the deaths of two veteran homicide detectives.
CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports the daylong siege began with what the suspect in a dramatic radio interview called "an accident."
Hank Earl Carr began his long day of carnage Tuesday morning, carrying his dying stepson into a fire station, the boy's face blown off by a high-powered rifle.
Accused of lying about the shooting at his home, Carr slipped from handcuffs and fatally shot two officers taking him to police headquarters. He hijacked a truck and fled, killed a rookie state trooper who tried to stop him, wounded a truck driver, and took a gas station clerk hostage.
More than 170 law officers surrounded the Shell station near Brooksville, about 50 miles north of Tampa. Carr released the female clerk unharmed after nearly five hours, then put a bullet in his head as a SWAT team closed in, police said.
"I don't want to go to prison," Carr told a radio station early in the standoff. "I don't want to eat the food. I don't want to live with the people. I just don't want to go to prison. I don't want to go."
Police records showed Carr, 30, had a criminal record dating back to 1986 that included burglary, domestic violence, assault, grand larceny, possession of cocaine, and resisting an officer with violence.
"He would beat me constantly," said Evelyn Sacks, his former girlfriend in Ohio and mother of two of his children. "I'm glad he's dead. Live like that, die like that."
The ordeal started shortly after 10 a.m. EDT, when Carr (then identifying himself as Joseph Lee Bennett) and a woman he identified as his wife carried 4-year-old Joseph Bennett into a neighborhood fire station, police said.
The real Joseph Bennett, 33, lives in Watertown, Ohio. Reached by telephone at his home, he said he saw his children, including Joey, at Thanksgiving, when they visited their maternal grandmother in Marietta, Ohio.
"That was the last time I heard from them," he told The Tampa Tribune, his voice breaking. "I still have their Christmas presents."
Carr said Joey had been dragging the rifle behind him when he and his girlfriend, Bernice Bowen, yelled at Joey to put it down and it went off. Carr fled when questioned about the death at his home, and changed his story when questioned at police headquarters to say he accidentally shot Joey.
He agreed to go back to the house to show police how the shooting happened, police spokesman Steve Cole said. While driving back to police headquarters, he slipped from the cufs and shot the officers.
Carr told WFLA, which called him during the hostage standoff in Brooksville, that he shot the officers after they refused to believe his explanation that Joey's death was accidental.
"They started calling me a liar ... and [said] I was going to jail and prison," he said.
"I got one of the handcuffs off. I reached up front and got the pistol away from the officer that was driving. The other one jumped in the back seat trying to get [the gun] away. I shot them both," he said.
The officers were identified as Randy Bell and Ricky Childers, both husbands and fathers who were veterans of 20-plus years.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James Crooks, 23, tried to stop Carr near a highway exit about 10 miles from the gas station and was killed as they exchanged gunfire, police said.
Carr then crashed into another patrol car and shot at a truck driver who suffered minor injuries.
He pulled off the highway when officers blew out the tires of the truck, and he fled into the gas station as shots rang out around him.
Inside the station, Carr talked by telephone with hostage negotiators and his girlfriend, whom he had described as his wife, brought to the scene to try to talk him out, Hernando County Sheriff's spokeswoman Deanna Dammer said. He also talked to the mother of his children in Ohio.
"I can't see giving myself up to fry in an electric chair. If anything, I'll shoot myself," Carr said.
When negotiations broke down, police shot tear gas into the station, fired off an explosive device behind the building, and rushed inside to find Carr dead.
Police confiscated three rifles from his home, including a Chinese version of the AK-47 assault rifle.