Friday, January 19, 2018
Public safety

Officer shoots into car in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer fired at a stolen car Wednesday night after the driver smashed into an unmarked police car, officials said.

The incident occurred about 8:30 p.m. at the Quick Stop convenience store, 1440 49th Street S after officers from the street crimes unit saw a black 2006 Mazda 6 with a license plate that had been reported stolen and did not match the car.

At least three unmarked police vehicles pulled into the lot to apprehend the driver, who was seen exiting the store.

As the officers approached, the driver ran to the car, got inside and backed out quickly and with enough force to "drive up and over one of the unmarked cruisers," a police news release states.

The impact peeled the cruiser's hood back almost to the front window.

"Another foot or two and it might have caved in the cruiser window," police spokesman Mike Puetz said.

Another officer fired multiple rounds at the car. The driver was able to "drive forward off the cruiser" and drove away east on 15th Avenue S, the news release states.

Police said they had not found the Mazda by late Wednesday night. It was not known if the driver had been wounded.

One officer suffered minor injuries but did not require medical treatment.

Police said they don't know who the driver was, but described him as a black man in his 20s who stood about 6-foot-1 and was last seen wearing a black hoodie and black jeans.

The Mazda he was driving was stolen Jan. 2 in Palm Harbor. The tag on the car was stolen from a blue Chrysler the next day.

Controversy has swirled around the police department over the last year because of incidents in which officers fired at moving cars, a practice that is generally against policy.

There were three such incidents last year, one of which led to an officer's termination.

Though the shooting Wednesday night will be investigated, Puetz said it appears justified because the officer who fired feared the officer in the car was in danger.

"At this point based on preliminary information from the officer involved, we feel deadly force was justified in order for him to defend himself and the officer in the car," he said.

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