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Clearwater officer cleared in shooting

(ran NS, S editions of TAMPA BAY AND STATE)

Two separate investigations released Monday concluded that a veteran Clearwater police officer was justified in fatally shooting a 19-year-old St. Petersburg man who pointed a loaded semiautomatic pistol at him.

Officer Benjamin McBride was cleared of any wrongdoing in the Oct. 13 death of Antwan L. Walker, who was shot in the chest and each arm. It was the first fatal shooting by a Clearwater officer in three years.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe and a Clearwater police board of inquiry ruled that Walker's actions and conduct gave McBride reason to fear for his life and defend himself.

Walker, who lived at 2302 16th Ave. S, was armed with a Mac-11 9mm pistol. The pistol was loaded with a 13-round magazine. A bullet was in the gun's chamber.

"The gun was ready to fire," said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor. "All he had to do was pull the trigger."

Louella Walker, Walker's mother, covered her face with her hands Monday and declined to talk to a reporter.

An autopsy showed that Walker had cocaine in his body. Nine foil-wrapped packages of powdered cocaine were found in his shirt pocket after he died.

The autopsy also revealed that Walker had a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent, the level at which state law presumes a driver to be impaired.

Investigators determined that Walker had the pistol in his car, concealed it in his pants, pulled it out to point it at McBride and refused the officer's order to drop the gun. McBride, a nine-year veteran, then fired three times. Walker died within minutes.

"We're not sure why Mr. Walker was in Clearwater or what he had been doing here," Shelor said. "The others with him at the time have been uncooperative."

With three friends as passengers, Walker was driving a blue Buick in the Greenwood area about 9:50 p.m. Oct. 13 when an officer noticed the car's license tag was partly attached. A computer check showed the tag had been reported stolen from St. Petersburg.

The investigations provided these details about what happened next:

Officer Tom Milne heard a radioed description of the car and saw it stopped on the east side of the Fina station at 1285 Cleveland St. After pulling his cruiser in behind the Buick, he saw Walker get into the driver's side of the car and then get back out.

Walker had stopped to use the restroom. He was wearing a baggy shirt over baggy shorts and when he saw Milne pull up, he took the pistol from his car and hid it in his pants waistband. Walker always kept the magazine loaded and in the gun, according to the others in the car.

Milne, who did not see Walker conceal the gun, asked him to walk back to him. The officer then asked to see Walker's driver's license. Appearing nervous, Walker refused and began to walk away. When Milne grabbed his arm, Walker slapped his hand away and ran.

The officer followed him briefly, but returned to the Buick when he could not catch Walker. He handcuffed the three other men who were in the car. Two were later arrested on unrelated charges.

Arriving as a backup for Milne, McBride ran after Walker. The officer used his flashlight and found him lying in the grass behind the station. McBride told him to stand up and show his hands.

As Walker got to his feet, McBride saw a gun in his hands. He heard and saw Walker cock the pistol. The officer saw him point the gun at him and McBride fired when Walker refused to drop the pistol.

Walker bought the gun "on the street" at least three months earlier. It was not reported as stolen. Walker kept the gun under the arm rest on the front seat of the car, the others in the car said.

Court records showed that when he was shot, Walker had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in court on a felony charge of carrying a concealed firearm in St. Petersburg. He had been arrested in November on that charge. He also had been convicted of reckless driving and did not have a valid driver's license.

McBride was placed on administrative leave with pay after the shooting. He returned to duty Monday as a west district patrol officer.

_ Staff writer Nichole M. Christian contributed to this report.