ST. PETERSBURG — Police officers who shot and killed a man they said threatened them with scissors last month have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing,
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said the police were justified in their use of force on March 10. McCabe, in a letter that became public Wednesday, said Officers Devin Jones and Curtis Wright believed their lives were in danger during their encounter with Arthur Dixon, 43.
That evening, Dixon's mother called police and said her son was suicidal. Dixon, officials said, had doused himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself afire. A friend tried to calm him down but could not get him to leave the home.
Officers surrounded the house at 5411 Fourth Ave. N and negotiated with Dixon, who eventually emerged "belligerent and threatening" with a pair of scissors, a police statement said.
Jones and Wright fired multiple shots into Dixon's upper torso when he refused to drop the scissors and advanced toward the officers. Dixon, struck three times, was transported to Bayfront Medical Center, where he later died.
Friends and family said Dixon was troubled. But they also have questioned the officer's decision to shoot.
McCabe's letter said the officers had been backing up and Dixon, whose blood-alcohol level was 0.22, kept coming toward them. It also said they'd been instructed not to use their Tasers because of the gasoline. "Although the use of deadly force in this case was clearly justified, the circumstances surrounding the incident yet again demonstrate why it is important that as many officers as possible receive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to hopefully avoid the need to use deadly force without compromising the safety of our law enforcement officials," McCabe wrote.
Both officers received such training in 2011, police said Wednesday.
McCabe said in an interview he wasn't implying officers did anything wrong, and added that "there's no way of knowing" if more training would have yielded a different outcome.
Dixon made headlines in 2011 after police said he used an ax and baseball bat to rob a Walgreens and steal an 18-pack of beer. He was released from state prison in February. In an interview two weeks ago, Lydia Andrews said her son was bipolar and blind in one eye. She called the incident a failure of police and the mental health system. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.