For the third time in four days, a Tampa police officer late Friday shot a suspect who the officer said threatened his life. And for the third time, the suspect's weapon wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a car.
The latest incident occurred about 11 p.m. Friday, when police say 16-year-old Ladonte Bivens, driving a stolen Dodge Shadow, tried to run down police Cpl. James Bowers at Columbus Drive and Central Avenue. Bowers fired into the car's windshield, hitting Bivens in the chest.
Unlike two similar incidents earlier in the week, Bivens survived the shooting and was listed Saturday in serious but stable condition at Tampa General Hospital. Bowers, 37, is a 12-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department. He was placed on routine administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.
"The gist of it is, (the car) came at him, he felt threatened and he fired," said Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole.
The scene was much the same twice earlier last week, when police officers shot and killed suspects who had rammed or pinned them with cars.
In the first incident, Terrence D. Alston, 26, was shot and killed Wednesday after a confrontation with Officer A.J. Matthews in the parking lot of Matthews' South Tampa condominium complex. Matthews was leaving for work when he confronted Alston looking in cars. Alston jumped into a car and used it to pin Matthews to another car, police said. Matthews fired once, killing Alston.
The second incident occurred early Friday, when Isiah Irwin Keel, 24, jumped into a police car after a foot chase and it lurched backward, pinning an officer against another cruiser. Police say Keel reached for an officer's gun and three officers opened fire, hitting Keel five times.
No fewer than five Tampa police officers are on leave because of shootings. Officials characterize the rash of shootings more as a fluke than a trend.
"They never want to use deadly force, but these things can sometimes run concurrently," said Tampa police Sgt. Frank Jensen. "There's just so much they can do when they're placed in a situation they can't avoid."
Authorities said Bowers and Officer Forrest Arden Jahn were working extra duty Friday night at the Columbus Court Apartments when they noticed Bivens driving with his headlights off. As Bowers approached the car on foot, Bivens turned the Dodge in his direction and hit the gas. Bowers fired one shot through the windshield, hitting Bivens in the chest, authorities said.
Several people were gathered in the area following the shooting. One of the witnesses, Yolanda Fleming, said to her it appeared that Bivens was trying to go around Bowers.
"He didn't say nothing," Fleming said. "He just started shooting."
Bivens, of 234 Nordica St., was charged with grand theft auto, burglary of a conveyance and two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. In addition, he was wanted on battery and trespassing charges, police said.
Bivens had prior arrests dating back to 1992, including a charge of assault and battery, grand theft auto and possession of cocaine, police said. Disposition of those cases was not available Saturday.
_ Times staff writer Janet Shelton Rogers contributed to this story.