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Man dies after being shot by St. Petersburg police

ST. PETERSBURG — A man shot Saturday afternoon by St. Petersburg police officers has died, authorities said.

John Alfred Johnson, 49, was shot by officers shortly after witnesses said he shot and wounded a man at 3620 1/2 18th Ave. S. Johnson then left the scene and walked west on 18th Terrace S, police said.

Officers were initially called to the area for a report of a brawl, possibly involving weapons. While at the scene, they reported that shots were fired and a man had been wounded, police spokesman Bill Proffitt said.

That victim, Ben Ware, whose 59th birthday was Saturday, was in critical condition Saturday night at Bayfront Medical Center with several gunshot wounds. His wounds aren't considered life-threatening, police said.

Police gave this account of the events that led to Johnson's shooting:

Ware, of 119 21st Ave. S., and Johnson were hanging out with a group of people at 18th Avenue South and 37th Street South when an argument erupted. Johnson left and came back about a half-hour later with a pistol. He threatened to kill Ware, pointed the gun at his face, and then shot him several times moments after the officers arrived on the scene.

Officers followed Johnson, who is known as "Smoky," as he walked toward 38th Street South. The officers repeatedly told to drop the handgun, but he ignored them and kept walking away.

Johnson told the officers that he wasn't going back to prison and said they would have to shoot him, witnesses told police.

At 18th Terrace South and 38th Street South, Johnson turned and faced the officers with a .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol in his hand. Three officers fired at Johnson, hitting him twice in the stomach and once in the hand.

Johnson, a city of St. Petersburg stormwater department worker who lived at 3801 19th Ave. S, was taken to surgery and died at 8:11 p.m.

Johnson's gun had one bullet in the chamber and other rounds in the magazine, according to investigators.

The officers – George Graves, 26; Michael Karayianes, 26; and Michael J. Romano, 29, will be on paid administrative leave for two days before being assigned to restricted-duty jobs until an administrative investigation is finished, Proffitt said.

Man dies after being shot by St. Petersburg police 12/26/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 27, 2009 8:42am]

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