ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – 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.
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. About 24 hours later, officials gathered near police headquarters to announce that the teen was in custody facing a juvenile charge of first-degree murder.
The Associated Press does not routinely release the names of those under 18 years old charged with juvenile crimes.
"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 and dogs searched for the gunman and a chunk of the city of about 245,000 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 the teen and that police were still looking for the gun. The teen had a prior juvenile criminal record but Harmon did not give details. Prosecutors will decide whether the teen will be charged as an adult. The chief said because of the seriousness of the charge and the teen's prior record that he would expect him 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.
The suspect was taken to a juvenile lockup 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 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.
Associated Press writer David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.
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