The State Attorney's Office has cleared a Pinellas County deputy who shot and killed a man armed with an assault rifle in May, the Sheriff's Office said Friday.
Yariel Mata was working as part of the joint Pinellas and St. Petersburg auto theft task force when officers saw a 1998 Ford Windstar driving recklessly near 22nd Avenue S and 16th Street on May 7.
When they tried to stop the car, the driver, 31-year-old Cory Williams, struck two police cruisers before passenger Alton Fizgerald Witchard, 37, got out of the car with an assault rifle, deputies said.
Mata yelled at Witchard several times to drop the gun, and Witchard responded by threatening the deputy with it, according to the Sheriff's Office. Deputies said Mata fired five shots, hitting Witchard twice. Witchard later died at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.
"It is the conclusion of the State Attorney's Office that the death of (Witchard) was the result of having been shot by Detective Yariel Mata … who was in the lawful performance of his legal duties and that the shooting was justifiable homicide," State Attorney Bernie McCabe said in a document sent to the Sheriff's Office Friday.