Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Family fumes over fatal St. Petersburg police shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Family and friends are fuming over what they consider the wrongful death of Arthur Dixon, whom St. Petersburg police shot and killed March 10 after they said he threatened officers with scissors.

That anger was on display as about 50 people gathered Sunday for Dixon's memorial service at Albright United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.

"They didn't need to kill him," said Adonna Hill, the mother of Dixon's two children. "They didn't need to do to him what he couldn't do to himself."

The ceremony celebrated Dixon's life: his love for his children and for fishing. But it was also clouded by Dixon's violent death.

"It's not my place to say anything about Arthur's final moments except this," said the Rev. Jeffrey Ice, who led the memorial ceremony. "To me it was obvious he wasn't trying to hurt anyone but himself. And that's because there was a pain inside of him and he didn't know what to do."

Officers killed Dixon, 43, after his mother, Lydia Andrews, who was staying at his house, notified authorities her son had doused his surroundings in gas and was threatening to set himself afire.

One neighbor, Ray Wuest, said he entered the house — at 5411 Fourth Ave. N — to counsel Dixon and wipe up the gasoline, but police ordered him to leave.

Officers surrounded the house and negotiated with Dixon, who eventually emerged "belligerent and threatening" with a pair of scissors, a police statement said. Officers Devin Jones and Curtis Wright fired multiple shots into Dixon's upper torso. He was transported to Bayfront Medical Center, where he later died.

Jones and Wright have no history of discipline or previous shootings. They are on paid leave during the shooting investigation.

Police spokesman Mike Puetz said he can't comment on specifics of the incident until the investigation is complete.

At the scene, Puetz had told reporters scissors are as dangerous as a knife.

Andrews, Dixon's mother, scoffs at that idea.

"I'm not saying he wasn't swearing. He probably was, but he wouldn't have hurt anybody," she said, adding her son was blind in one eye and had back problems, both of which prevented him from moving quickly. "All (police) had to do was back up. They didn't need to shoot him."

Dixon was convicted in 2011 of robbery with a weapon and resisting an officer with violence. The bizarre nature of the crime made headlines: He used an ax and baseball bat to rob a Walgreens of an 18-pack of beer.

Dixon's friends and family acknowledge he was troubled.

But several who took to the lectern at the service discussed his softer side — how sweet and adorable he was as a child, how much he cared for his children.

Andrews said her son's bipolar disorder got the best of him and he couldn't find a psychiatrist to accept his Medicaid insurance.

"This is not just a failure of the police, this is a failure of the mental health system," she said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Brittany Alana Davis at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.

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