updated 7/27/2005 10:38:30 PM ET 2005-07-28T02:38:30

A former city commissioner recently indicted on corruption charges fatally shot himself Wednesday in the lobby of The Miami Herald building, authorities said.

The Herald said Arthur E. Teele Jr., shot himself in the mouth shortly after 6 p.m. after asking a security guard if he could see columnist Jim DeFede.

“He said to tell DeFede to tell his wife he loves her,” the guard said.

Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss said Teele died at 7:50 p.m. at Ryder Trauma Center. Authorities said the weapon used was a semiautomatic.

Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler said after the shooting and before Teele died that there would be no immediate comment from the newspaper.

‘What a tragedy’
A spokesman for the city Fire-Rescue Department, Ignatius Carroll, said Teele was found with two small caliber holes in the back of his head. Initially Teele responded to questions by blinking his eyes on command, he said.

“What a tragedy it is for his family, for the community,” City Commissioner Johnny Winton said. “It’s unbelievable. He was a fighter, and I respected that part of him.”

Teele and an electrical contractor were indicted July 14 on charges of lying to get more than $20 million in contracts at Miami International Airport that were supposed to go to minority-owned businesses.

Teele is also a former Miami-Dade County commissioner. He was convicted in March in state court of threatening a police officer as part of an unrelated corruption investigation that has yet to go to trial.

Conversations with columnist
DeFede said he spoke with Teele several times Wednesday, the Herald reported.

In the longest call, about 90 minutes before the shooting, Teele spoke emotionally about his legal problems and various allegations that had been made against him, the report said.

“He was very upset,” said DeFede, who knew Teele for 14 years.

In their last call, Teele said he was at the Herald and leaving DeFede a package, but did not sound particularly upset, DeFede said.

“I said to Art, ‘Well, is it urgent? Do you want me to come down there right now? Is it something I need to see tonight?”

Teele replied no, and hung up.

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