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Tampa police shoot burglary suspect

Police shot and killed a suspected burglar in the attic of a Hyde Park townhouse Wednesday when the man threatened three officers with a knife, authorities said. The incident occurred about 4 p.m. as tactical officers tried to coax the man from the attic of a townhouse at 605A S Oregon Ave., Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said. The man, whose identity was not released, was shot at least three times at the end of an hourlong standoff, Cole said.

The man is a suspect in a rash of daytime burglaries in the area just north of the Hyde Park Village shopping center, Cole said. Plainclothes officers had been patrolling the neighborhood since the burglaries started two weeks ago, Cole said.

Those officers were sent to the Waterford townhouses after a nearby resident notified police that a man had tried to break into her home about 2:45 p.m., Cole said. When police arrived the resident told them a man wearing blue jeans and high-top sneakers had broken into the house across the courtyard, he said.

Plainclothes officers entered the home and ordered the man to come out, but he refused, Cole said. The officers backed out and called the tactical squad, he said.

About a dozen tactical officers surrounded the complex and three went inside, Cole said. Sgt. Larry Pinkerton, 42, Sgt. Carson Helms, 36, and Detective Dan Grossi, 39, found the man hiding in the attic and ordered him to give up, Cole said.

"The suspect was uncooperative and verbally threatened the officers. Then he came at them with a knife," Cole said. Crouched down in the cramped attic, all three officers fired at the man, he said.

As police investigated the shooting, another resident of the Waterford townhouses returned from work to find her home had been burglarized, Cole said.

The north Hyde Park area has been plagued recently by crime. Police still are looking for a man suspected of raping four women between June and September.

Steven Thibodeau, who lives across the street from the townhouses, came home at 3 p.m. to find unmarked police cars along the street. He ran for cover to the back of his house when he heard gunshots, he said.

Ben Lino, 65, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1953, said, "The nicer neighborhoods are the ones getting hit because that's where the money is."

Wednesday's shooting is the fourth time this year an officer has killed a suspect, Cole said. There have been 14 incidents this year in which an officer fired his gun, but not all of those cases resulted in injuries, he said.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office will decide whether the shooting was justified. The Police Department will conduct its own investigation to determine whether the officers followed police guidelines on the use of deadly force, Cole said.

Pinkerton has been a Tampa police officer for 16 years, Grossi for nine years and Helms for 12 years, Cole said. All three have been placed on administrative leave with pay, a standard procedure after a shooting, Cole said.

_ Staff photographer Mike Pease and photographer Chris Clevenger contributed to this story.