St. Petersburg police shoot, kill armed man

Officers say he pointed a weapon at them after they responded to a neighborhood argument.
Published September 2 2013
Updated September 3 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Police shot and killed a man early Monday after they said he pulled out a gun and pointed it at an officer.

Ronald Wesley Sexton, 23, was pronounced dead at the scene — his front porch.

Based on preliminary information, Sexton's encounter with police was brief, and initiated by the fact that his neighbor had just called 911 and said Sexton was armed and making trouble.

Sexton's family, however, accused officers of acting too quickly.

"This all started over a dog barking and somebody ended up dead," said David Wallace, whose daughter has a son with Sexton. "I want the truth."

Bill Proffitt, a police spokesman, said officers were called to Sexton's home, 4412 10th Ave. N, about 1:30 a.m. after a neighbor called police for help. The neighbor said he was awakened by the sound of Sexton yelling into his back yard.

Sexton was taunting the man's pit bull, police said. Sexton had his own dog, a 7-year-old pit bull named Crystal, with him and told the neighbor to "meet me out front," Proffitt said.

The man did, police said, and Sexton pulled a black handgun from his pants. The neighbor called police.

Dispatchers could hear Sexton yelling and banging on the man's door as they took the complaint, Proffitt said. Residents told police Sexton had been drinking earlier in the day.

Multiple units were sent to the scene. As three officers approached, Sexton walked out onto his porch.

The officers told Sexton to get on the ground, Proffitt said. He started to comply, police said, then suddenly pulled his gun from his pants and pointed it at one of the officers.

All three officers fired their weapons. Sexton's gun fell to the grass.

His 10-year-old son said he saw his father go down.

Josh Wallace, a fifth-grader, recounted his recollection of the morning's events to reporters as his grandfather looked on. He said he saw his father pull his gun halfway out his pants when officers shot him.

As he spoke, he fingered a cross pendant strung on a silver chain around his neck. He said it belonged to his father. His mother was in the house during the incident.

David Wallace said Sexton, who was planning to marry Josh's mother in December, was not a violent person. Sexton is from Tallahassee and has never been arrested in Florida, records show. He worked for a concrete business, David Wallace said, and had recently decided to get his commercial driver's license in order to get a better-paying job driving trucks.

"Nobody's perfect," David Wallace said. "But he was good."

Proffitt said the department will release the name of the officers today. As is standard procedure, they all were placed on administrative leave while investigations by the department and Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office take place.

Police did not directly address Sexton's son's claims about how his father handled the gun before the shooting. But they did confirm that the boy may be considered a witness.

"He told us he was inside and saw part of it," Proffitt said.

Police have not released the name of the resident whose call to police initiated the incident. A neighbor who lives to the right of Sexton did not answer the door. The man who lives to the left of the family, 63-year-old Bob Voller, said he woke up about five to 10 minutes before the shooting because his own dog was barking and wouldn't settle down.

"I thought I heard police say something like 'get down,' or 'put it down,' " he said. "I've been here 29 years and there's never been anything like this. It's sad. Just sad."

After his grandson went inside and TV trucks pulled away, David Wallace crumpled to the steps of his daughter's front porch and drew out a cigarette from a pack of L&M menthols that had belonged to Sexton.

"I haven't smoked in two months, yet here I am," the 70-year-old said. "I've had friends who are cops. My other daughter is married to a sheriff's deputy. I've never hated anybody in my life. This has done it. … Police officers are supposed to serve and protect. Not murder. I just want justice done."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.