When a masked man broke into his bedroom wielding a gun early one morning last February, Heath Miller was prepared. He told Palm Beach County sheriff's detectives that he kept a .38-caliber revolver in his nightstand, and a .22-caliber rifle in his closet.
Miller grabbed the revolver first, shooting until his gun was empty. As he watched the intruder, later identified as Robert Rashard Tomlin, run from the bedroom to another part of the house, Miller was afraid the masked man would start shooting again. So he armed himself with his rifle and followed him.
Tomlin had fallen in the dining room, but still appeared to be moving. Miller thought his rifle was jammed, and fired off one round accidentally. Then he fired
another to make sure the gun was working, he later told detectives.
By the time detectives arrived at Miller's house, Tomlin was dead. Miller and his wife, Mirelle, were not injured.
Heath Miller was never charged in Tomlin's death, but he was arrested two months later for allegedly sexually assaulting four students at H.L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens, where he was the band teacher.
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Miller was a popular teacher, a man students respected as a father figure and disciplinarian at a school prone to bullies and fights. But after his arrest, questions arose about his own history with violence.
In his application to teach in Palm Beach County schools, Miller admitted that he had once been arrested for keeping a handgun in his college dorm room at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He said it was his father's gun, and after Miller registered it legally, the charges against him were dropped.
(District of Columbia Superior Court records confirm that a case was filed against Miller and dismissed 1995, but provide no other information).
Last year, when Palm Beach County School District Police Detective Vinny Mintus was investigating the allegations of sexual assault against Miller, the subject of Miller's gun came up again. The mother of one of Miller's alleged victims told Mintus that Miller had once shown his gun to her daughter. When questioned by Mintus, the woman declined to discuss the incident further.