Officer David Crawford was shot multiple times Monday night while investigating a report of a prowler in a neighborhood just south of Tropicana Field where the Tampa Bay Rays play baseball. Crawford was the third St. Petersburg officer to die in the line of duty in the last month.
Police identified the suspect as Nicholas Lindsey. He was arrested late Tuesday following an intense manhunt.
“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.”
Lindsey’s father made a tearful apology to the officer in the courtroom Wednesday.
“On behalf of me, my son and our entire family, we send our deepest concerns and sympathy to the family and his colleagues that he works with,” said Lindsey’s father, Nicholas, who broke into tears, according to St. Petersburg Times. “This is my only son and I’m sorry that this happened.”
The Associated Press does not usually identify juveniles until they are charged in adult court, but authorities released his name and the teen’s photo has been widely disseminated.
A Pinellas County Judge has assigned the public defender’s office to represent Lindsey, but no specific attorney has been appointed. Prosecutors intend to try Lindsey as an adult, the newspaper reported. A grand jury would have to review the evidence and determine the charge.
Lindsey had a prior juvenile criminal record, but the police chief did not give details. Police did not have a motive except that there was some exchange between Lindsey 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.”
Lindsey is a student in the Pinellas County Schools, but Harmon wouldn’t say which school. It wasn’t clear how he obtained the gun, Harmon said.
Lindsey’s mother, Deneen Sweat, 43, said she became suspicious of her son when she read police descriptions of the suspect. She repeatedly asked if he was involved and he denied it, according to the newspaper.
“I told my son, ‘Man up and tell them what happened,’” she said.
Lindsey was described as a quiet teen who wanted to be a football player when he grew up.
Monday night’s shooting happened when 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.
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 a rural community north of St. Petersburg.
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.