Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Foster returns to his regular schedule, explains his decision to demolish

ST. PETERSBURG — After two police officers were shot and killed on Monday, Mayor Bill Foster canceled all his meetings so he could try to restore calm to a shattered police department.

But he kept his regularly scheduled appointment today at Kay's Kitchen on Central Avenue, where he met with residents as part of his monthly Breakfast With the Mayor meet-and-greets.

"It's important that we return to normalcy," Foster said upon arriving for the 7 a.m. event and finding himself surrounded by five TV cameras and several reporters. "We need to continue to demonstrate that our police are still out there. Our city services are still being provided. In their honor, we will continue to provide a high level of service."

Foster spent more than two hours sitting individually with residents who showed up to talk to him about issues, such as zoning, the Tampa Bay Rays, a new west-central business association and health care.

The breakfast, like others, was lightly attended by residents, with no more than 20 getting a chance to speak with him. This time, though, reporters were out in full force, following him around as he sat down with each diner patron.

He shook the hand of Caesar Civitella, a former city parking attendant, and they talked briefly about light rail. He spoke briefly with Tom Meehan, a retired electrical contractor from Ohio. He talked with police Officers Rob Arrison and Scott King as they ate their breakfast.

"It helps that he's out there with us," King said. "You feel a lot more support because he's been with us during the last couple of days."

Foster reasserted that he alone made the decision to demolish the home of Christine Lacy after Hydra Lacy shot and killed Officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Thomas Baitinger. He said he ordered the demolition shortly after Lacy's body was removed from the house at 2:15 p.m.

"I'm not a contractor, but from what I saw, I knew that it was beyond repair," Foster said. "I called (Public Works Administrator Mike Connors) and said I wanted it removed by nightfall."

He said he didn't go inside the house to inspect the damage, but he did see the front and concluded that the home was destroyed. He said that because Lacy was dead, he knew there would be no criminal investigation. If Lacy had been alive, Foster said, he wouldn't have ordered the demolition until police had more time to process the evidence.

But he said he didn't want to risk the lives of officers if there was to be no criminal case. Even though evidence such as shell casings would be helpful in instructing the department what happened, Foster said it wasn't worth keeping the house standing.

"Had Lacy been arrested, the decision would have been different," Foster said. "The need to gather evidence for a criminal case is the difference. Since we're not, it's wasn't worth putting anyone in peril."

Foster said he didn't consult with the city's top building official, Rick Dunn, or the city's fire marshal in determining that the house was too unsafe to gather evidence of the shootout. He said he saw officers collecting evidence at the scene who had to navigate between more than 100 canisters of tear gas that had been used, and felt they were in harm's way.

"I have the legal authority to direct my city staff in a manner that isn't illegal," Foster said when asked what allowed him to order the demolition.

According to Assistant Deputy City Attorney Mark Winn, the city's strong-mayor form of government gives Foster broad powers.

"He's the chief administrator of the city," Winn said. "It's his job to do those things."

Foster repeated his intention to compensate the owner of the house on 28th Avenue S, Christine Lacy. He said he spoke with her Tuesday and that she has a lawyer. He wouldn't say who her lawyer was.

"She's going through her own grief," Foster said. "She feels sick about what happened. We're going to maker her whole."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or

Foster returns to his regular schedule, explains his decision to demolish 01/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 8:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  2. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

    Jose De Leon follows through in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, on May 29, 2017.
  3. Resignation of communications director Dubke could signal more changes within White House staff


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke has resigned as White House communications director, a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, in the first of what could be a series of changes to President Trump's senior staff amid the growing Russia scandal.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  4. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  5. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott