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St. Petersburg police searched Hydra Lacy Jr.'s home three times before shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Amid the chaos that surrounded the deaths of two police officers last week, this much is clear: Officers entering Hydra Lacy Jr.'s house knew he was a fugitive and possibly armed.

Their search wasn't the first.

Police records released to the St. Petersburg Times Tuesday show that other teams of officers had searched 3734 28th Ave. S two months earlier under the same threat of gunfire.

Lacy's wife, Christine, had called police Nov. 20 at 9:53 a.m. to say her husband — on the lam from a missed court date — had shown up just after midnight.

"She had her 9mm pistol on the bed,'' Officer James M. Stewart wrote in a report. "When he entered the bedroom, he took the gun and placed it on top of the dresser.''

She told police that Hydra was still there when she left for work at 8 a.m. and she wanted him arrested.

A computer check confirmed that Hydra was wanted, Stewart wrote, and "may be armed with a 9mm handgun.''

The report doesn't specify what time officers arrived at the house, and none agreed to be interviewed for this story.

Christine unlocked the house and removed her three Rottweilers so Stewart and backup officers could search the house. Neither Lacy nor a gun were found. The report doesn't say whether they looked in the attic.

Later that night, at 6:50 p.m., she called again. Someone had alerted her that her husband was back home.

Details of this call are sketchy because no one filed a report, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt. But brief "call notes'' show that one or more officers searched the house again, with no luck.

Two months later, in a similar search, St. Petersburg police Officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Tom Baitinger died after a shootout with Hydra, who was holed up in the attic with a gun. Investigators had gone to the house to question Christine about her husband's whereabouts.

Hydra's family and friends have said his estranged wife often let him stay at the house.

Christine has repeatedly declined comment. But the reports released Tuesday show that — before the day of the shootings — she had reached out to police four times to try to get her husband arrested.

The first time was Nov. 1, immediately after Hydra did not show up for an 8:30 a.m. trial on 2009 aggravated assault charges. Police say he had broken his wife's nose and jaw, hit her with a bottle and stabbed her with a samurai sword. The judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Christine's sister, Carol A. Jewell, has complained to reporters that she and her sister tried to tell police that day they could arrest Lacy at the house.

"The police said, 'We are sorry, there is no warrant,' '' Jewell said. "Then my sister said, 'There is an injunction. He is not supposed to be there. Arrest him for that.'

"They said they had lost the paperwork. So I took her to my house.''

Again, police records of this interchange are sketchy because no one wrote a formal report. But brief "call notes'' show how legal terminology and court processes led to miscommunication between citizen and cop.

Christine, indeed, called police at 9:34 a.m. Nov. 1, an hour after her husband missed his trial. She told them Hydra was at their house. There was a warrant for his arrest and she had "an injunction" against him, she said. She also said she didn't know if he had a gun, but hers was hidden in a washroom closet in a shoe rack.

Police checked for any warrants or injunctions, but found none, according to police notes from the call. That was accurate at the time.

The judge's warrant wouldn't show up in law enforcement computers for 24 hours. That is typical because both court and sheriff's officials must verify that warrants are for the right people and charge, said Alan Hebdon, supervisor for criminal court records.

Also, there wasn't an injunction against Hydra. After his 2009 arrest, a judge issued a "no contact'' order, telling him to stay away from his wife. But that would not show up in court records as an "injunction."

At that point, Christine gave up.

"Since we were not going to arrest her husband, she did not want us to talk to him,'' the call notes say. "Then she left.''

Her next two calls to police came on Nov. 20, when officers twice searched for Hydra unsuccessfully.

On Nov. 21, Christine called again. She was working at the VFW post on 49th Street. She told police a man had called her cell phone, and she was pretty sure it was Hydra. The message: "She was not going to make it home tonight alive.''

She told Officer Michael Bauer she was going to stay with friends until police arrested Hydra on the warrant, but asked for an escort home so she could let the dogs out for a while.

"She was afraid Hydra might be at her place even though she changed the locks,'' Bauer wrote. "I explained to her that her husband can go to her house when she is not there, which is not a violation of the protection order. Technically, Hydra still resides at the residence.''

Bauer and another officer searched the house before she went inside, he wrote. There was no sign of forced entry.

Bauer's report makes no specific mention of guns or Hydra's fugitive status but does reference the previous day's reports, which do.

Police officers can access prior reports from laptop computers in their cars, Proffitt said.

That, presumably, would include the officers who visited the Lacy house that fateful morning of Jan. 24. It's unclear whether they read all the reports involving Hydra, but here is what Christine said the last time she contacted police on Jan. 8:

She told Officer David Brody that she had spoken to her husband the week before by phone.

"Hydra made statements to the effect of, he was not going back to prison,'' the officer wrote, "and he would shoot it out with police."

St. Petersburg police searched Hydra Lacy Jr.'s home three times before shooting 02/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 1:52pm]
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