ST. PETERSBURG — One person was killed Thursday night after a car crashed into a tree during a police pursuit.
The crash occurred about 8:15 p.m. on 15th Avenue near 39th Street S. One person died at the scene and a second was taken to Bayfront Medical Center with traumatic injuries.
Police were pursuing the car because officers believed the people inside were responsible for an armed robbery earlier in the night at a Family Dollar, 1720 16th St. N.
A customer at the store called police about 8 p.m. to report that two people were robbing the clerk and a shot had been fired. Officers responded to the store and got a description of a get-away car.
About 10 minutes later, undercover detectives saw the car in the area of Fifth Avenue and 28th Street S. A marked cruiser tried to pull over the car in the area of Sixth Avenue and 44th Street S, but the driver sped away.
Police supervisors authorized the officer to pursue the suspects. The car crashed into a tree a short time later.
The impact caused massive damage to the car and the two occupants were trapped inside. Firefighters extricated them both.
Police said they found a gun in the car that matches a description of the gun used in the robbery.
Some people in the neighborhood were upset that police chased the suspects.
"Too many people get hurt from these police chases," said Octavia Taylor, 38, who heard the impact of the crash. "If somebody did a crime, you should catch them a different way."
Not everyone agreed.
"When people do wrong, you should catch the criminal," said Darryl Gaines, 21. "That goes for any neighborhood. They were doing their job."
St. Petersburg at one point had a restrictive pursuit policy that allowed officers to chase only people they suspected in violent crimes. The guidelines were loosened in 2010 to allow officers to chase suspects in lesser crimes such as burglary and auto theft.
A pursuit of suspects in an armed robbery would have been allowed under the old policy.