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Sergeant cleared of wrongdoing in fatal shooting

LARGO — Three weeks after a police sergeant fatally shot a man in Largo, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has cleared the sergeant of any wrongdoing.

The shooting took place at 4:25 a.m. Oct. 3 at 1203 Ridge Road SW.

Authorities said the roots of the shooting go back to the spring when Vincent J. Esposito, 41, of Oldsmar had a brief romantic relationship with a woman named Lisa Walters.

Esposito and Walters broke up in June, and Esposito, who had served as an officer with the Chicago Police Department, blamed a mutual friend, Renee Colacchio.

Authorities found Esposito's angry e-mails to Walters blaming Colacchio as well as numerous phone calls to Colacchio.

Meanwhile, Colacchio, who lives on 14th Avenue SW, was the victim of a few hundred dollars worth of vandalism to her house and her minivan. BBs cracked the windows of her vehicle. Two tires were slashed. Someone shot a pellet gun at a window of the house and chipped it.

The vandalism always happened at night; twice Colacchio filed police reports. Other times she did not.

On the morning of the shooting, the state attorney's report said, Colacchio's neighbor spotted a man on her lawn shooting a BB gun.

The neighbor, Paul Conley, called police and then chased Esposito, both men on foot.

Conley and Esposito came face to face. Conley wielded a decorative dagger, and Esposito took out his pellet gun and held it by his side.

Esposito took off again, authorities said, running to his motorcycle.

Sgt. Frank Parr, in his patrol car, came upon Esposito as he was mounting his motorcycle to flee. Parr knew that Esposito reportedly was carrying a gun.

He ordered Esposito to put his hands in the air. When Esposito made a sudden motion — as if to reach for his weapon — Parr fired four times, striking Esposito with three of them and hitting Esposito's motorcycle with other shot.

Esposito died shortly after at a local hospital.

The report found some discrepancies in the various eyewitness accounts of the final moments leading up to the shooting.

Parr saw Esposito slowly kneel and then, on one knee, reach quickly for the side of his motorcycle with his hand. That's when Parr fired.

Conley said that at the last moment Esposito was on his motorcycle with his hands on the handlebars. He refused to comply with commands. Esposito then sat back on the bike and moved his hands quickly to his waist. Conley thought Esposito was going for his gun.

Officer John Sinni said that he saw Esposito crouched on the ground next to his motorcycle on his knees. He said Esposito did not raise his hands as ordered but had them near his waist, where a pellet pistol was later found.

The report said these discrepancies did not change the final conclusion that the shooting was justified.

Parr was put on an administrative leave while the investigation was under way. He was reinstated Tuesday.

An administrative review is under way to find out if there are ways the department could have handled the incident better, said Largo police Lt. Stephen Slaughter. He said Parr is a "highly trained, well-educated, well-rounded police officer."

"He had to make a tough decision that in law enforcement sometimes we have to make."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Sergeant cleared of wrongdoing in fatal shooting 10/23/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2008 3:08pm]
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