In the darkness, Belleair police Officer Jeffery Tackett pointed his gun at a man he had caught trying to break through a condominium door.
In the confusion of the next few moments he would manage to get one handcuff on the man. Then something went terribly wrong.
Tackett, 28, was shot once in the groin with his own .45-caliber revolver late Sunday night. He bled to death alone, while backup officers looked for him.
"He radioed his dispatcher and said he had a suspect at gunpoint, to send backup," said Pinellas County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita. "His next transmission was, "I'm shot. It looks bad, and he's got my gun.' "
The burglar escaped, riding a blue 10-speed bicycle on the Pinellas Trail. Officers from Largo, Belleair, Belleair Bluffs and Clearwater converged on the Trail. Early Monday morning, Clearwater police found a man on a bicycle who had been seen with a handcuff dangling from his wrist.
Lorenzo Lamar Jenkins, 31, was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree murder. Jenkins, who has no permanent address, was held without bail Monday in the Pinellas County Jail.
Chris Lutz, a sheriff's deputy who met Tackett while patroling areas around Belleair, said he lost a dependable friend.
"He'd give you the shirt off his back," Lutz said as he stood under trees near Pelican Place condominiums, where the officer died. "We backed each other up. He was always there, always behind you when you needed him."
Tackett is the only officer killed on duty in the history of Belleair, which was incorporated in 1954. A five-year veteran of the town's department and one of 10 officers, he was being considered for promotion.
Belleair Police Chief Harry Gwynne said Tackett "did nothing wrong, as far as I can determine, to cause this." He asked the Pinellas Sheriff's Office to investigate the shooting. Tackett's relatives declined comment Monday.
"He was a young, hard-driving officer," the chief said. "He knew his job."
"Put it down! Put it down!'
Tackett was the only Belleair officer on patrol Sunday night, working 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. About 11:15 p.m., he was sent to investigate a call about someone breaking into a condo at Pelican Place, which borders the west side of the Pinellas Trail.
An 18-year-old woman, Amy Walker, was alone in a condo at the complex at 672 Poinsettia Road when she heard someone breaking in a downstairs door. She called 911. The rear of the condo, bordered by an 8-foot fence, faces the Trail. Miss Walker could not be reached Monday for comment.
The burglar had removed two panes of glass from a French door when Tackett arrived, said Tita, of the Sheriff's Office. The officer and the burglar confronted each other outside, then came Tackett's last transmission.
Officers from Belleair Bluffs, which has a mutual aid agreement with Belleair, found only Tackett's flashlight in the back yard, he said.
Largo officers, who received calls at 11:21 p.m. about shots fired, moments later found Tackett's body in the back yard. His gun and handcuffs were missing.
Christina Pack, who lives in a duplex across the Trail from the 78-unit complex, called Largo police after she heard people yelling.
"I was outside, taking out the garbage," she said. "I could hear a dispute and a voice saying, "Put it down! Put it down!' Then the shot went off."
At 12:49 a.m., a woman called Clearwater police to report seeing Jenkins with a handcuff on one wrist. Officers found Jenkins on his bicycle outside 1602 N Fort Harrison Ave. about 2 a.m.
According to Pinellas criminal court records, Jenkins was sentenced to 14 months in prison in November 1988 for felony possession of a firearm and shooting into an occupied dwelling.
State Department of Corrections records show he also has served a total of seven years on two burglary convictions in Duval County.
Jenkins recently separated from his wife and lost his job as a dishwasher at a Clearwater hotel, according to Rebecca King, a friend who said she let him stay at her house for about two months.
Jenkins did not have on a handcuff when he was arrested Monday, Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said.
Though police were still looking for the handcuffs Monday, investigators had found Tackett's gun at daylight in a ditch along the Trail behind Pelican Place.
Residents there were shocked about the shooting in the quiet, affluent neighborhood nestled under large oaks and pines.
"It's tragic," said Stan Kinney, condominium association president. "This is a beautiful place to live."
Neither Kinney nor neighbor Frank Reagan blamed the trail or the access it provides to the neighborhood.
"We've had no problems from the trail," Reagan said. "This is a safe place, regardless of what happened. I've never heard about anything suspicious happening. My wife has walked the dog at 2 a.m. and felt totally safe."
"Now we have an officer dead'
Tackett talked of a law enforcement career as long ago as his days at Largo High School, said his guidance counselor there, Pat Ballance.
He joined the Tarpon Springs police force in April 1987 and resigned in March 1988, citing personal reasons. According to city records, he did not meet the terms of his probation with the department.
Memos and other documents complained of Tackett's lack of maturity and failure to follow the chain of command.
In Belleair, Tackett was a leader in getting union representation for police officers, said Jim Lau Bach, executive director of the Police Benevolent Association.
Lau Bach said one of the reasons Tackett favored union representation was concern for his and other officers' safety.
"He told me the radios (in Belleair) were bad and he was concerned because there was only one officer on the streets at night," Lau Bach said.
Lau Bach said when he asked Tackett whom he was to call for backup, Tackett told him "there wasn't any real policy.
"And now we have an officer dead," Lau Bach said.
How Tackett was disarmed and then killed with his own gun remains unknown. However, officers are trained to help prevent such situations.
John Dressback, a defensive tactics instructor at St. Petersburg Junior College's Criminal Justice Institute, said safety tactics taught at the Police Academy include having a backup when responding to such calls.
"You move in at the same time from different directions," he said.
When an officer holds someone at gunpoint, the person is ordered to lie down spread-eagled, Dressback said.
Tackett's survivors include his wife, Alice M.; his brother, Kenneth E. Tackett, Elgin, Ill.; his mother, Fredia Warren Tackett, Largo; his father, Bobby Ray Tackett, Lusby, Md.; paternal grandmother, Artie McCormick, Palm Harbor; and maternal grandfather, Nesbitt Warren, Marion, Ind.
Visitation is scheduled for 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Moss-Feaster Funeral Homes, Largo Chapel, 206 First Ave. SW. Dr. Charlie Martin is to officiate at the funeral service at 2 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo. Burial is to follow at Serenity Gardens Memorial Park, 13401 Indian Rocks Road, Largo.
The family has set up the Officer Jeffery W. Tackett Memorial Fund. Donations can be sent to Pinellas Community Bank, 350 East Bay Drive, Largo, FL 34640; or to MacDill Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 19100, Tampa, FL 33686-9100
Other victims of violence
Hernando County sheriff's Deputy Lonnie C. Coburn was overpowered and shot in the chest with his own revolver by Freddie Lee Hall. Hall was stopped after he behaved suspiciously outside a convenience store.
St. Petersburg police vice Detective Herbert R. Sullivan was fatally shot point-blank by Sammie Lee Mathis while sitting in a pickup outside a motel. Sullivan was attempting to set up an undercover cocaine deal.
Tampa police undercover Detective Gerald A. Rauft was killed and another detective was wounded by Carlos Bello, a Cuban refugee, during a drug deal in Ybor City.
Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Lemon Harvey was killed outside his home by John Hosey, who was hired by Hill Williams. Harvey and Williams had quarreled about a personal matter.
Tampa police Sgt. Gary S. Pricher was killed when a drunk driver in a pickup truck smashed into a group of people gathered near a broken down bus on Interstate 4. Pricher was returning from a conference in Orlando and had stopped to help the bus.
Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Officer Margaret Peggy Park discovered a stolen handgun when she stopped a van in Tarpon Springs. A struggle then took place, in which the two occupants of the van, Martin Grossman and Thayne Taylor, hit Park in the head with a flashlight, seized her .357 Magnum and shot her.
Jackie Simpson killed Tampa police Officer Porfirio Soto and exchanged gunfire with Officer Charlotte Johnston as they attempted to serve him with an arrest warrant.
_ Sources: Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Times files. Compiled by Times researcher Kitty Bennett