St. Pete Police arrest 16-year-old suspect in officer shooting

10:07 AM, Feb 23, 2011   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- A daylong manhunt that covered a swath of the city ended when tips led to the arrest of a 16-year old who faces a murder charge in the shooting of a St. Petersburg police officer, the third killed in the line of duty in the past month.

Photo Gallery: Officer Shot in St. Petersburg

Officer David Crawford was shot multiple times Monday night while investigating a report of a prowler in a neighborhood just south of Tropicana Field.

About 24 hours later, officials gathered near police headquarters to announce Nicholas Lindsey was in custody facing a juvenile charge of first-degree murder.

"When he did make the admission on tape for us at the end of the day, it was quite apparent that he was remorseful in his actions," Police Chief Chuck Harmon said during a late night news conference. "He cried."

Helicopters, SWAT teams, dozens of law enforcement officers and dogs searched for the gunman as a chunk of the city was closed to traffic for parts of Monday and into Tuesday. The FBI, the St. Petersburg Police and other groups also were offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the suspect.

Harmon said three tips led officers to find Lindsey in the Citrus Grove apartments at 13th Ave. S and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street S. Police took some evidence from the complex, but police are still looking for the gun. Lindsey has a prior juvenile criminal record with non-violent "petty charges," Harmon said.

Prosecutors will decide whether the teen will be charged as an adult. The chief said because of the severity of the charge and Lindsey's prior record, he would expect Lindsey to face adult charges.

Two officers were checking out the prowler call and Crawford, 46, spotted the suspect and got out of his car. At 10:37 p.m., another officer, Donald J. Ziglar, reported an exchange of gunfire and told dispatchers an officer was down, police said.

Ziglar found Crawford lying on the pavement near his cruiser, shot at close range, police said. Crawford was not wearing a bullet proof vest.

Lindsey was taken to Pinellas County's Juvenile Detention Center,and his parents were cooperating, the chief said. Police did not have a motive except that there was some exchange between the teen and officer, Harmon said.

"It breaks my heart," he said. "When you have something like this happen, you don't expect this type of confrontation between a 16-year-old and a police officer to end like this."

The suspect is a student in the Pinellas County Schools, but Harmon wouldn't say which school. It wasn't clear how the boy obtained the gun, Harmon said.

Crawford, who was married, eligible for retirement and the father of an adult daughter, was pronounced dead at a hospital. Officers saluted the van that carried his body to the medical examiner's office Tuesday morning. Crawford, who loved horses, lived in Citrus County.

On Jan. 24, two St. Petersburg officers -- Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Thomas Baitinger -- were killed as they helped serve a warrant on a man with a long criminal history. Their killer died in the siege. Prior to that, the St. Petersburg Police department hadn't had an officer killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years.

"We're not even done healing from the first tragedy, then boom, we have a second one," said St. Petersburg Detective Mark Marland, who is also the police union president.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said the city will now be able to bury officer Crawford and have some closure -- but residents, officers and parents must also learn why a teenager was carrying a handgun.

"We as a community need to stand up and do a better job," Foster said.

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