Friday, November 24, 2017
Public safety

St. Petersburg police sergeant shoots ax-wielding suspect, authorities say

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ST. PETERSBURG — A sergeant lauded for his role in the Hydra Lacy Jr. officer shootings has been thrust into the spotlight again after he shot and seriously wounded a robbery suspect who threatened him with an ax early Sunday, police said.

The suspect, Anthony J. Stahley, 27, of St. Petersburg was taken to Bayfront Medical Center and was in critical condition after undergoing surgery.

St. Petersburg police say the incident began after 2 a.m. when they received a call from a man who said he had been robbed of his bicycle by a person carrying a large ax.

An officer arrived at the scene, 1040 18th Ave. N, and found the suspect riding the stolen bike in a nearby alley, authorities said.

The officer tried to catch the suspect, St. Petersburg police said, but he broke free.

However, police said, the suspect moments later threatened Sgt. Karl D. Lounge, who had arrived as backup, with the ax.

Police described the ax as large, with a 3-foot yellow handle.

Lounge fired at the suspect "several times," according to a police spokesman.

Jim Grittner, 44, who lives near the shooting scene on 11th Street N, was dozing on his living room couch with his cat when he heard a speeding car, then what sounded like a crash.

"We sprung up, then heard the 'bang, bang, bang,' " he said later Sunday morning.

His wife, who was sleeping in another room, also heard three shots. The couple looked out the window and saw police cruisers everywhere. Several minutes later, they went outside.

They saw a man writhing on the ground just outside their fence.

"I heard the guy wailing that he'd been shot," Grittner said.

Grittner said he later realized that the crash he heard was a police cruiser hitting a fence.

Authorities later learned that the suspect — Stahley — was on probation for aggravated assault after his arrest for threatening a neighbor with a baseball bat in 2010. According to state records, Stahley, of 1715 12th St. N, pleaded no contest to the felony charge and a judge agreed to withhold adjudication if he successfully completed a two-year probation.

Stahley's past also includes guilty pleas for theft and marijuana possession, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show. Adjudication was withheld in those cases as well.

Lounge, 45, was placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is reviewed — standard procedure when an officer shoots someone. Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said he would not answer additional questions about the shooting, including whether a Taser was available, until the review was complete.

• • •

In late 2008, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office cleared Lounge in the fatal shooting a month earlier of a distraught man armed with a machete and a .45-caliber pistol.

The office said Lounge was justified when he shot Roberto Garcia-Lara, 46, with an automatic rifle. Four officers testified that Garcia-Lara had aimed the pistol at Lounge before Lounge shot him three times.

Lounge joined the city's force in 1990 and has been a sergeant since 1999. According to the Pinellas County's Fraternal Order of Police, he is the union's vice president. He currently works as a patrolman and squad supervisor on the midnight shift.

Lounge was among 16 officers who received the city's Medal of Valor for their efforts to subdue Lacy, who shot and killed St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas Baitinger during a Jan. 24, 2011, police standoff.

Lounge also supervised Officer David S. Crawford, who was fatally shot while questioning a teenage prowler just four weeks after the Lacy standoff.

The line-of-duty killings, which occurred during a 28-day span, were the city's first police casualties in 30 years.

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

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