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Slain St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz 'one of the best people I ever met'

Lorraine Yaslowitz, wife of slain St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, weeps as she walks out of Bayfront Medical Center.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Lorraine Yaslowitz, wife of slain St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, weeps as she walks out of Bayfront Medical Center.

The killer, hiding in the attic, opened fire Monday morning and took the life of a man who showed up to work early, his uniform starched stiff and his shoes shined bright. He shot a cop who wore his seat belt, filed his reports on time and kept his Glock clean and ready because he knew, like he knew his own three children, that in police work, death can come quick.

Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39, was one of two officers killed Monday as police stumbled into a shoot-out with a wanted criminal. He is survived by his wife, Lorraine, 40, and his children: Caleb, 12; Haylie, 8; and Calen, 5.

He was on his way home after his night shift with his police dog Ace when he responded to a call for backup at a house on 28th Avenue S in St. Petersburg.

It was like him to go. Just flip through his personnel file down at the police station.

2009: "He was always ready and willing to perform any task asked of him," a supervisor wrote, "and was quick to volunteer to assist others."

2007: "Officer Yaslowitz is the consummate team player."

2002: "He is viewed as an unofficial leader by those with whom he works."

Or talk to his neighbor, Herbert Kane, a retiree who lives across the street in a northwest Hillsborough suburb.

"He's a good friend. One of the best people I ever met."

The night before he died, Yaslowitz helped his neighbor haul new furniture inside.

"He was a great guy, I'll tell you," said Kane, 77. "A great father, too, and a great husband. I never heard him even argue, ever. They were a great family and I'm just sick about it."

Yaslowitz was born in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and spent part of his childhood in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before his family moved south in the mid 1980s. He graduated from Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg, where he played wide receiver and defensive back for the football team his senior year, in 1989, even though he was 5 feet 5 and weighed 132 pounds.

He was polite and respectful as a boy. He always said, "Hello, Mr. Sandbergen," to Bob Sandbergen, 70, who lived across from Yaslowitz's family for 20 years in Clearwater. "He was just a gentleman at a young age," Sandbergen said.

He went to Palm Beach Atlantic College, where he studied subjects like adolescent psychology, leadership and psychology of man, sprinkled with Bible classes. He graduated with a degree in psychology in 1993.

That was the same year he married Lorraine, who became a kindergarten teacher at Forest Lakes Elementary in Oldsmar.

He worked at Integrated Health Services, Camelot Care Services and the YMCA of Bardmoor in Largo, but he wanted something else.

"He spoke about being a cop many times since high school," his wife told a background investigator when Yaslowitz applied to the St. Petersburg Police Department in 1999. He "doesn't like sitting behind a desk all day."

In 11 years as an officer, Yaslowitz held guns on armed criminals and talked down a despondent drunk hiding a .38-caliber revolver.

In March 2002, he and another cop were investigating a burglary. They heard a dozen gunshots. They took cover and heard more shots, then saw three people running. They chased the suspects and cornered one. Yaslowitz drew his weapon as his partner searched the suspect. They found a gun and ammo in his pants. Down the street they found a dead man in a car.

Five years later, it was his attention to detail that prompted the arrest of a hulking 290-pound teen who allegedly attacked and raped a jogger in the Old Southeast.

Yaslowitz climbed from the patrol unit to the street crimes unit, where he and his colleagues one year netted 1,543 arrests and seized $113,072 in drug money, 84 vehicles, 31 pounds of marijuana and 3.94 pounds of cocaine.

Two years ago he jumped to the 12-member specialized canine unit, his supervisors wrote in his personnel file, because he was calm and collected. Year after year he was honored for assisting in the execution of high-risk search warrants.

One woman called the police department to say she appreciated Yaslowitz's "concerned and caring demeanor" while handling a brawl her grandson was involved in. Another wrote to say Yaslowitz had tracked down her stolen bicycle.

William and Baerbel Kava­naugh were driving near Roosevelt and Gandy when someone blew a light and struck their car. Baerbel and her dog were ejected. Yaslowitz and the other officers on scene found the dog in the woods. They drove to Bayfront Medical Center to tell the couple their dog was safe and to return William's wallet and his wife's pocketbook.

"They went above the call of duty," Kavanaugh wrote in a letter to the police chief.

Monday morning, Yaslowitz chose to help.

Monday afternoon, the suspect dead, the house a pile of rubble, the police chief held Yaslowitz's gold wedding band in his hand back at the station. He opened his palm and studied it and gave Yaslowitz one more evaluation.

"He excelled in his duty as a police officer."

Times staff writers Leonora LaPeter Anton, Jack Nicas and Craig Pittman and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Reach Ben Montgomery at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8650.

Slain St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz 'one of the best people I ever met' 01/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 11:07am]
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