It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Shannon Burke's life changed.
Maybe when he agreed to switch from a liberal Texas talk-show host to a conservative Central Florida mouthpiece.
Maybe when he changed to a more-aggressive style for a new role on an Orlando FM station.
Or maybe it was, as a former girlfriend and ex-wife suggest, when he started drinking too much.
Regardless, the man Real Radio listeners adore as a gun-touting, bikes-and-babes-loving radio personality is now living through a dark turn. Ratings have taken a back seat to freedom.
Burke, 43, sits behind bars in the Seminole County Jail, held without bail, accused of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and animal cruelty in an April 30 shooting that injured his wife and her dog.
That arrest alerted Orange County officials, who charged him with violating probation on an earlier alcohol-related reckless-driving charge. He's scheduled for arraignments in Seminole County on June 2 and June 9 and has a hearing June 15 on the violation-of-probation charge in Orange County.
He also will have a bond hearing Wednesday morning in Seminole County.
"The Shannon you see now isn't the guy I would laugh and talk with. The man became Michael Vick and Robert Blake all rolled into one tragic event," said Jeff Duncan, better known as Doc of the "Doc and Grace Show" on K92 FM.
Duncan and Burke are friends and former co-workers. They worked in the same Maitland office complex for different Clear Channel Communications stations, and Duncan had a front-row seat when Burke's career took off.
Came from TexasBurke was a free-wheeling, left-wing talk-show host in Austin, Texas, when Clear Channel brought him to Orlando in 2001. Three years later, after Burke cultivated a local following as a staunchly conservative — though not highly rated — host on 540 AM, the company promoted him. Burke moved down the hall to Real Radio 104.1 FM, a popular blue-collar show that did well in the ratings.
Duncan said Clear Channel encouraged Burke to develop a "bad guy" image.
And Burke dove into the role, adding tattoos to his body and riding his motorcycle around town.
That move, ultimately, carried long-term consequences, Duncan said.
"They [managers at Clear Channel] enabled it by making excuses, and sending him to bar gigs, knowing he would drink, even if he knew he shouldn't have," Duncan said.
At Real Radio they fancy themselves as "tough guy, stepping-over-the-line, outlaw radio hosts," he said. "It was part of the image of the station, and he morphed in very well."
Local Clear Channel programming director Chris Kampmeier declined comment. Clear Channel also would not permit any of Real Radio's personalities to talk about Burke.
Burke's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, did not return a call for comment.
Friends shockedAway from the cult trappings of radio, no one was more shocked about Burke's troubles than Robbi Allen. She met Burke 20 years ago in South Padre Island, Texas, where he worked in the hotel industry with her husband.
Burke was in Allen's wedding party. Later, Burke and his first wife, Betty, spent 17 hours in the delivery room as Allen gave birth to her son. And Burke is the godfather of that son, whose middle name is Shannon.
"I just can't see anybody doing such a complete personality switch," said Allen, who lives in Naples. "The Shannon I knew was a decent, nice man."
Most confusing, she said, is the animal-cruelty charge, brought on by the .40-caliber bullet that went through the left rear leg of his wife's dog before grazing Catherine Burke's head.
"He was such a pro-animal person," she said.
In the days following the shooting, other women in Burke's life went to court, filing documents that suggest his tough-guy image was more than just an image.
Another ex-wife, Susan Pendergraft, asked a judge May 4 to keep Burke away from their 9-year-old daughter. In her petition, she said the shooting of Catherine Burke was a continuation of his "erratic, volatile and escalating behavior."
Before they divorced in 2004, her attorney wrote, Burke once threatened to commit suicide while holding a gun.
After they divorced, he began a relationship with Deanne Schulz, a former radio personality, and they lived together for six months, according to court records.
Schulz accused him, in court pleadings, of biting and choking her and firing a gun in her presence. He also "has issues with drugs and alcohol," she wrote.
Fired after arrestClear Channel fired Burke after his arrest and subsequent probation violation came to light, a fact that nags at Duncan.
"Fired or not, Real Radio will be mentioned every time he is, and that's what they deserve for not insisting a troubled soul seek help," he said. "And I am not defending what he did."
But while Burke's face has disappeared from the company's Web site, it remains on the walls of the radio station where he hosted the midday show.
As of Thursday, Burke's photo was posted throughout the radio station, along with a warning to call security if he is seen in the building.
Rene Stutzman of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Gary Taylor can be reached at 407-391-9681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.