TAMPA — A deputy U.S. marshal wounded in a shooting that killed two St. Petersburg police officers was in good spirits Tuesday as he recovered from two gunshot wounds, a Marshals Service official said.
One bullet tore through Scott Ley's bullet-resistant vest and pierced his skin. Another bullet penetrated his lower abdomen, deep but not enough to kill him.
"I think he knows he's very lucky and blessed to be alive," said Pete Cajigal, assistant chief for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Middle District of Florida.
St. Petersburg police officers Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger were killed Monday as they tried to arrest Hydra Lacy Jr. on an aggravated battery charge.
Ley, 45, has been with the U.S. Marshals Service for more than 21 years and the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force about five years. He led Monday's attempt to arrest Lacy on an outstanding warrant, Cajigal said.
Ley was recovering at a local hospital and should be released soon, said Cajigal, who spent time with Ley on Monday and called him on Tuesday.
The bullet that penetrated Ley's vest left a deep bruise, said Cajigal.
"Since he was so close to the murderer, the impact of the round was very considerable," Cajigal said.
Cajigal could not provide details of Monday's incident but said task force members did everything right.
It's not unusual for a deputy U.S. marshal to team up with local law enforcement, in this case St. Petersburg police officers and a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy, Cajigal said. The presence of a U.S. marshal allows local law enforcement officers to investigate and arrest fugitives outside their usual jurisdictions.
With so many fugitives, the task force focuses on the most dangerous ones.
Tampa has about 10 deputy U.S. marshals working with the task force, and there are at least twice as many local law enforcement officers involved.
On Monday, task force members went to talk to someone with information about Lacy. Had they had known he was inside the house and armed, Cajigal said, they would have initially shown up with more people.
Cases can be resolved in a few days or a few months. The task force sought Hydra for a few weeks.
Cajigal said the officials wore standard bullet-resistant vests that don't cover the lower abdomen so they can move more easily.
"I can't say how often it happens where the initial call gets more serious," Cajigal said. "It's very fluid and its very dynamic. You could very easily start your day thinking it's going to go one way and it goes another."
Ley told the St. Petersburg Times in 2008 that the task force arrested about 500 fugitives that year by closing 600 warrants. Ley also said then that the task for members is aggressive but cautious. He said slow, methodical monitoring of fugitives led to successful arrests.
Their priority, Ley said, is to arrest the bad guy and go home at the end of the day. "It is a huge burden we carry,'' he said. "We're very serious about it.''
Ileana Morales can be reached at 813-226-3386 or email@example.com.