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New memorials honor three St. Petersburg officers killed in line of duty

ST. PETERSBURG — Donna Crawford held her husband's silver badge in her left hand, rubbing her thumb back and forth across the word "St. Petersburg" stamped in black across the top. The first "e" is almost worn away. That's how much comfort her husband's badge has brought her in the six months since Officer David Crawford was killed in the line of duty. "It's my sense of self," she said. "I carry it with me always." Another comfort: Monday morning's ceremony that dedicated Fourth Street to the memory of all three officers killed in the line of duty this year: Crawford, Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz.

The Florida Legislature dedicated a large swath of Fourth Street (State Road 687) to the officers, from the downtown Interstate 175 ramp all the way north to where Fourth ends at Interstate 275 and the Howard Frankland Bridge.

The bill was sponsored by state Sens. Jack Latvala and Arthenia Joyner and Rep. Jim Frishe. They attended the ceremony along with the mayor, City Council, other local elected officials and more than 150 officers and supporters.

Earlier this month, a section of 50th Street in Tampa was dedicated to Tampa Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. Both died on the job on that road last year.

Monday's ceremony marked the first time Donna Crawford has spoken publicly since her husband's Feb. 21 death. She said the large memorial sign erected at 470 Third St. S is another memento that also will bring her comfort.

"It's an acknowledgement," she said. "A concrete acknowledgement of what he sacrificed.

"He gave his life."

Crawford was fatally shot while trying to question a suspect downtown, according to St. Petersburg police. Yaslowitz and Baitinger lost their lives a month earlier, on Jan. 24, when they were shot and killed in a gunbattle with a fugitive hiding in an attic.

Donna Crawford was there with her husband's daughter, Amanda. The officer's former wife, Lori Crawford, also was in attendance. Lorraine Yaslowitz attended Monday's ceremony with the couple's three children, her husband's parents, Janice and Harvey Yaslowitz, his sister Stephanie Barnes and his nephews and niece.

Lorraine Yaslowitz admitted that the constant reminders of her husband's loss can be hard to bear.

"It can be emotionally exhausting to keep remembering what it is we're remembering here," she said.

But Monday's ceremony wasn't like that, she said. The whole family beamed as they posed for photos in front of the sign while officers blocked off traffic.

"It's a big honor," Lorraine Yaslowitz said. "It's a big reminder of what he sacrificed.

"It's also a chance for us to say thank you to the community for all they've done for us."

Since her husband's death, Lorraine Yaslowitz has repeatedly spoken in public about the faith she shared with her husband and family. She will do so again Oct. 27, when she will speak at the 10th Mayor's Prayer Breakfast at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.

Paige Baitinger was the only widow who did not attend the ceremony.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said the city will be forever grateful to the families for the sacrifice of their husbands and fathers.

"We are humbled as a city," Foster said. "We will forever remain on our knees in prayer, thankful for the sacrifice of these officers.

"We will never, ever forget."

New memorials honor three St. Petersburg officers killed in line of duty 08/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 10:29am]
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