ST. PETERSBURG — Nick Lindsey told police they would never find the gun he used to shoot and kill Officer David S. Crawford.
After he was arrested, police said the 16-year-old told investigators he dropped the .38-caliber semiautomatic pistol into a nearby creek during the massive manhunt.
Police aren't so sure.
An exhaustive search of homes, businesses and canals near the shooting scene came up empty, but authorities said Thursday they haven't ruled out the possibility Lindsey did something else with the weapon.
"He had a good 20 hours to do whatever he pleased with it," St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said. "The gun clearly would be something we'd like to recover."
But authorities now say accomplishing that might come down to the same thing that led to Lindsey's arrest: tips.
"We only know what he told us," Puetz said. "It could be hidden anywhere. It could have been given to anyone. … It's an endless number of possibilities. … This is the equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack."
Lindsey has been charged with the first-degree murder of Crawford, a 25-year veteran. Police say the Gibbs High School student admitted shooting the officer Monday night after Crawford stopped to question him near Second Avenue South and Eighth Street South.
Residents had called police after seeing the teen acting suspiciously earlier that night. Lindsey admitted he had been trying to break into a car, police said.
After he was arrested Tuesday, Lindsey told police he'd bought the gun last week for $140. His family has expressed shock about that, and relatives said they couldn't fathom where he got the money for it.
A dive team from St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue searched the creek near Campbell Park for about two hours Wednesday. In addition, Puetz said, officers fanned out and searched Campbell Park and the surrounding area "several times over."
Meanwhile, officials prepared to hold Crawford's funeral at the same church where thousands attended services for St. Petersburg police Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, who were slain in January.
Crawford's funeral will be at First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg on Gandy Boulevard at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Amid the grief, other law enforcement agencies are lending support to Crawford's family and his fellow officers. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is providing officers with grief counseling, said sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.
About two dozen members of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, including Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy, did yard work at the Crawford house in Crystal River Thursday morning. Several of them knew Crawford, spokeswoman Gail Tierney said.
They mowed, raked, trimmed trees cleared leaves off the roof and power-washed the home. A Home Depot store donated bags of mulch, Tierney said.
Crawford's father-in-law said Thursday that his daughter has been so upset they've spoken less to her than to a sister at the home.
But Dale Willey, who lives in Tennessee, said police officers and deputies are providing Donna Crawford with support.
Her neighbor Paul Allaire called the help wonderful.
"She is being well taken care of," Allaire said. "I went over there to thank (the sheriff) on behalf of Donna and the whole neighborhood. He said, 'We are brothers. We take care of each other.' "
Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this report. Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643. David DeCamp can be reached at (727) 893-8779 or email@example.com.