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St. Petersburg Police are in shock as two officers are killed; First time force has lost an officer since 1980

10:43 PM, Jan 24, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- The St. Petersburg Police Department is reeling over the deaths of Sgt. Tom Baitinger and  Jeffrey Yaslowitz, who were gunned down in the line of duty Monday.

The entire department appears to be numb as none of the officers, including the chief, were employed by the department when the last officer, Herb Sullivan, was shot and killed August 18, 1980.

Chief Chuck Harmon, visibly shaken, said during a briefing that this is a bad day for the department and a bad day for the city of St. Petersburg. Although it may not be apparent to those who don't know the chief, he was overcome with emotion as he held some items, including a badge, a wedding ring and bracelets worn by the dead officers. Harmon says he was given the items by officers on the scene and is having trouble letting go of them. The chief could hardly contain his anger as he talked about the killer who took his officers' lives.

St Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who was seen in the corner wiping away a tear, said, "There is no bad guy to catch." He said the city must think of the families whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice. He added they died doing what they loved.

Meanwhile, the chief talked about the two officers, saying he knows Biatinger better because he was on the force longer, since 1996, and he socialized with him. However, Harmon says both men always had a smile on their faces and loved what they were doing. He says he will miss them both.

Baitinger, who was 48 years old, leaves a wife, Patricia. Yaslowitz, also 48 years old, who joined the force in 1999, leaves a wife, Lorraine, and three children - two boys ages 12 and 5, as well as a little 5-year-old girl.

Mike Deeson, 10 News

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