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Largo officers cleared in shooting of knife-wielding man

LARGO — Nicholas John Pesare told his mother he wanted to die and that he would force police to kill him by attacking them with a knife.

Anne Polce said she told Largo police Officer James Shinn this when he arrived at Laguna Vista Apartments June 30. She repeated it again when Officer Nathaniel Hansmann arrived a few minutes later, at about 1:35 p.m.

Twenty minutes later, Pesare was dead on his bedroom floor, shot three times by Hansmann after a Taser shot by Shinn missed.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe has cleared the officers of any wrongdoing in the death. On Tuesday, Largo police released McCabe's letter, which details his office's investigation and his conclusion that Hansmann was justified in shooting Pesare.

"Without provocation of any kind, Pesare raised the knife in a threatening manner and quickly advanced towards the two officers," McCabe wrote in the report. "Both officers were in fear for their own lives as well as the lives of each other when Officer Hansmann fired his pistol."

Both officers were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which is standard procedure, according to Largo Lt. Mike Loux. Shinn returned to full duty after a few days; Hansmann will return to full duty after seeing a psychiatrist, which also is standard procedure, Loux said.

Largo police will conduct an administrative review to see if any policies were broken, Loux said, but he does not anticipate any violations.

"We agree with Bernie McCabe," he said.

Polce was unavailable for comment Tuesday. She told the St. Petersburg Times on July 1 that police "cornered and shot" her son, and she planned to sue the police department.

Pesare had autism, attention deficit disorder, Asperger Syndrome and a long history of suicidal activity, according to McCabe's report. He cut his wrists multiple times, Polce told investigators, and was committed to a psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island at least nine times before the mother and son moved to Florida.

McCabe's letter gave the following account of Pesare's death:

Hansmann entered Pesare's bedroom with his gun drawn, while Shinn followed with his Taser drawn. Hansmann grabbed Pesare by the collar, but he squirmed free and grabbed a folding knife off a TV tray by his bed.

Shinn fired the Taser at Pesare from about five feet away, but only one of the barbs hit Pesare. If both barbs don't hit the target, the electric shock can't be administered, according to Loux.

Pesare made threatening motions with the knife, the report stated. Hansmann fired his gun three times, hitting the 18-year-old in the heart and lower abdomen. Paramedics pronounced him dead at 1:55 p.m.

Pesare was Polce's only child. While he had taken the antidepressant Prozac in the past, Polce told investigators that her son had not taken any medication for any of his disorders in about two years.

Early in the report, McCabe noted that Polce called Largo police almost a year ago — July 23, 2010 — because her son told her he wanted to die. Police Baker Acted Pesare that day. While en route to a mental health facility, Pesare told an officer that he never intended to kill himself, even though he told his mother he did.

Will Hobson can be reached at 727-445-4167 or

Largo officers cleared in shooting of knife-wielding man 07/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 9:52pm]
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