ST. PETERSBURG — Detective Ricardo Lopez wanted to do his part after two police officers died last week in a violent clash with a wanted fugitive.
His idea: sell T-shirts memorializing Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger and canine Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz to raise money for their families. Lopez thought 500 sounded like a good number.
That was 10,000 T-shirts ago.
"I can't believe the outpouring of support from the community," Lopez said. "We can't get these things out fast enough. They're usually flying off the table."
That's just one of the many ways the Tampa Bay area is raising money for the families of the two officers, who died Jan. 24.
The second-annual Wing Fest outdoor food and music festival at Vinoy Park on Saturday changed its name to the first-ever Bait and Yaz Wing Fest in honor of the officers. The Vinoy Club will hold a raffle and auction for the officers Tuesday evening at Alfresco's at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort. And Feather Sound Country Club will host a memorial fundraising golf tournament in honor of the officers for the next five years. More events are in the works.
The total amount raised isn't available yet. The families have yet to discuss with officials what they will receive from federal, state and city funds as well as insurance and pension benefits. But thousands of dollars in donations have already come in.
Each of the slain officers' families will receive $10,000 from an annual dinner honoring law enforcement and emergency personnel on Jan. 28 hosted by Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni. The dinner was started after the 1993 fatal shooting of Belleair police Officer Jeffery W. Tackett. The venue, the Hilton hotel in Carillon, will also contribute $5,000 to the families.
But the black T-shirts have become the most popular means of rasing money. The Suncoast Police Benevolent Association is taking online orders (www.suncoastpba.com) and plans to print kid's sizes.
Each T-shirt is $15. All profits after expenses go to the families. Mark Marland, a St. Petersburg detective and union president, said the goal is for the T-shirts to raise six-figures.
He said the union is vetting events before lending its name out. Anyone is free to raise money however they wish, but he warned that the union will investigate reports of abuse.
"The PBA will not come knocking on your door," he said. "If anyone calls you, you should know right off the bat it's not legit."
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The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday held its first official meeting since the officers died.
Their first order of business was to honor them, issuing two resolutions of bereavement for Sgt. Baitinger and Officer Yaslowitz. Each council member spoke about grief and prayers for the officers' families and the St. Petersburg Police Department.
"It's been a long two weeks," Mayor Bill Foster said.
The students of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg also held a candlelight vigil for the officers Thursday evening on the campus' Harborwalk plaza. More than 200 people attended.
Relatives and friends of the fallen officers also invited the community to a City Hall prayer event at noon today. The effort is being led by Unity in our Community, a campaign dedicated to showing officers how much they are appreciated.
"When one family member grieves, we all grieve," said Tamaira Heyward, the wife of a St. Petersburg officer. "When one member of our family hurts, we all hurt."
Times staff writers David DeCamp, Emily Nipps and Danny Valentine contributed to this report.