St. Petersburg Police officer killed, manhunt underway, reward offered

4:41 PM, Feb 22, 2011   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- During a press conference in St. Petersburg today, Police Chief Chuck Harmon updated the description of the suspect, saying police are looking for as a black male, late teens or early 20s, slender and about 5-ft. 9-inches tall.  Harmon said police will be relentless in their pursuit of the suspect, and he made available pictures of the suspect's Nike flip flop style shoe that was left at the scene.

The suspect is wanted in a shooting of a St. Petersburg Police patrol officer overnight after responding to a report of a suspicious person near downtown St. Pete. Officer David S. Crawford, 46, was a 25-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Around 10:30 p.m. Monday, a caller reported seeing someone in their backyard holding a broken brick.  The caller thought the person might be trying to commit a burglary in the area near the 700 block of 3rd Avenue South.

At 10:34 p.m., Officer Donald Ziglar, 41, responded to the area, which is just east of Tropicana Field.  A few seconds later, Officer Crawford arrived on scene.

Photo Gallery: Officer Shot in St. Petersburg

Officer Crawford reported seeing a suspect near the intersection of 2nd Avenue South and 8th Street South and got out of his police cruiser to approach the man.

At 10:37 p.m., there was an exchange of gunfire.

Officer Crawford was hit multiple times at close range and died at Bayfront Medical Center, according to St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon.

Officer Crawford is a 25-year veteran of the department.  He was sworn in on July 13, 1985.

By 4 a.m., his family had gathered at Bayfront Medical Center.

At 6:15 a.m., a group of officers saluted his body as it was loaded into a white van and led away by police escort.

Officer Crawford was able to return fire. Police say there's no evidence that the suspect was hit.

The initial caller described the suspect as a black male in his late teens or early twenties, wearing a dark-colored hoodie. The resident last saw the man when he jumped over a fence.

Police say the suspect ran off on foot, heading generally south from the scene. 

K-9 officers tracked the suspect for several blocks until they lost the suspect's scent. Officers also brought in bloodhounds, which also lost the suspect's scent.

Since the shooting, police have been searching within a two-square mile perimeter between Tropicana Field and Albert Whitted Airport.

Witnesses say Crawford was not wearing a bulletproof vest.  Chief Harmon would not comment on the topic.

"I'm not gonna lie.  The city has been through hell," said Mayor Bill Foster. 

"It took 30 years to lose an officer in the line of duty, and in 30 days, it's happened again.  I can tell you cities don't prepare for this.  Departments don't prepare for this.  But these officers prepare."

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Highway Patrol are posted throughout the search area, helping the St. Petersburg Police Department with armed road blocks.

Units from a range of law enforcement agencies are stationed at every exit from the search area, which covers the area from 4th Ave. S to 15th Ave. S and from 4th St. S to 16th St. S.

Several streets are closed to traffic until further notice, including: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street South from 1st Ave. S to 5th Ave. S.

All north-west traffic should use 4th Street South or 16th Street South.

St. Petersburg Police say people who live in this area should stay inside their homes with the doors locked.

The FBI in coordination with the St. Petersburg Police Department is offering a reward of $50,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the individual(s) who murdered Officer David Crawford in St. Petersburg. Report tips to the St. Petersburg Police Department at 727-892-5000.

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