ST. PETERSBURG — A man shot to death by police in a parking lot late Thursday had a history of violent crime and substance abuse, police said.
Jason Michael Kerr, 31, was acting erratically and looking nervous inside Hungry Baba's restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Street, police said. He was sweating so much one employee handed him a towel.
Employees called police when they saw Kerr waving a gun as he talked to people in the store's parking lot.
Kerr started to drive away in a white Dodge Caravan but officers pulled him over in the Snax convenience store parking lot across the street, police said. From the seat of his van, Kerr pulled out a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun and fired at least three times at police, the bullets hitting between two marked cruisers, police said.
Police fired back, killing Kerr, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt. No officers were injured.
"I thought it was fireworks," said Mohammed Azi, a cashier at Snax. Azi, 18, hit the floor of the convenience store when he realized it was gunfire.
Pinellas County records show Kerr has a criminal history stretching back to 1996, when he was 14. As an adult, Kerr was charged with a series of crimes, including home invasion robbery, aggravated assault with a weapon and trafficking and possessing illegal drugs. He served one year in prison on drug charges and another three years on separate drug-related charges, Florida Department of Corrections records show.
In late July, he was sentenced to an anger management class after a charge of domestic battery. He had at least two small children, Pinellas County records show.
Police said Friday it was too soon to determine what caused Kerr to shoot at police.
Four officers involved in the shooting, Matthew Laliberte, 28, Scott Kirpan, 31, Mark Kruzell, 30, and Matthew Stringfellow, 27, were placed on administrative leave while the incident is under investigation, standard procedure for an officer-involved shooting.
A police spokesman said none of the men were involved in recent police-involved shootings.
The case marked the seventh time this year St. Petersburg police have shot and killed a criminal suspect, including three separate incidents last month. In 2012, there was only one fatal shooting.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Claire Wiseman can be reached at (727) 893-8804 or [email protected]. On Twitter: @clairelwiseman.