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Lessons became real for deputy

ST. PETERSBURG — For years, B.J. Lyons trained law enforcement cadets and veterans on how to survive shoot-outs.

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On Wednesday, all of that practice may have saved Lyons' life.

When a man pulled out a gun at his security checkpoint at a St. Petersburg courthouse and shot Lyons, he and another deputy fired back.

The deputies survived. The gunman didn't.

"Perhaps his training paid off today," said Sheriff Jim Coats, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday.

Lyons, 58, has worked as a patrol officer, bail­iff and background investigator in his more than 25 years with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Spokesman Jim Bordner estimated Lyons has taught hundreds of students courses on firearms, driving and defense tactics.

The firearms training teaches students about marksmanship, dealing with low light and moving to cover.

"Everybody loves him," said lawyer Ken Afienko, who's scheduled to teach a St. Petersburg College class on background investigations with Lyons next month. "That's why he just keeps getting invited back to do teaching. He's a very well-rounded and experienced deputy."

Lyons has had close calls before.

In 2001, the St. Petersburg Times wrote about a situation Lyons defused while off-duty. He was driving his grandson to breakfast when a man cut him off and stopped in front of him. The man got out of the car with a gun in his waistband.

Unarmed, Lyons confronted the man and told him he was an off-duty deputy. When he backed down, Lyons wrote down the license number and the suspect was charged with aggravated assault.

Afienko, who represents police union members, talked to Lyons on Wednesday and said he was shaken, but handling the situation well.

"I think that's a natural reaction in any type of incident like this," Afienko said.

The deputy was struck in the left shoulder, but a radio microphone deflected the bullet. He was treated and released from Bayfront Medical Center.

Lyons, who is married with three grown children, was placed on nondisciplinary administrative leave, a standard procedure in a shooting that involves a deputy.

Sarasota police Officer Rex Troche was a student of Lyons' in the police academy in 1997 in Pinellas County. He said Lyons is an instructor whose lessons he has recalled throughout his career.

"You want to talk about someone who's cool under pressure, it's B.J. Lyons," Troche said. "B.J. was the right person at the right time."

Stephanie Garry can be reached at sgarry@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2374.

Lessons became real for deputy 05/07/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 11, 2008 10:00am]
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