A man was fatally shot Thursday night by a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy after officials said he reached for another deputy's gun.
Field Training Officer Bryan Tarsitano, 28, and sheriff's recruit Darren Hogg, 32, were on routine patrol near Cleveland Street and Betty Lane shortly before 8 p.m. when they stopped the unarmed man on the street to talk to him, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.
"At some point the encounter escalated to the point where a struggle ensued," Pasha said. "The subject involved attempted to go for the recruit's gun, and the field training officer felt obliged to fire his handgun, striking the subject."
Authorities believe Tarsitano fired two shots with his 9mm Beretta semiautomatic pistol that hit the man in the upper body, Pasha said.
Pasha said the man, who was in his early 30s, was pronounced dead at Morton Plant Hospital shortly after the shooting. Deputies did not release the man's name Thursday evening because they were still trying to reach his family.
The shooting occurred within the city limits of Clearwater, but the deputies were on their way to an unincorporated area just to the north, Pasha said.
"We are commonly in and out of this area because of the number of unincorporated pockets on Betty Lane and along the east and west," Pasha said. "What prompted them to engage this individual in an interview, I'm still trying to find out."
Tarsitano and Hogg will be placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine, and must undergo psychological evaluations before returning to work, Pasha said. The Sheriff's Office will investigate the shooting and turn over its findings to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.
It was the first shooting involving a law enforcement officer in Clearwater in nearly a year. There were two officer-involved shootings in Clearwater within three weeks in February and March 1999.
In the first, a Clearwater police officer shot Feddie Eugene Jones once and wounded him in the hand and abdomen after the two struggled in the North Greenwood neighborhood. In March, two officers shot and wounded Michael Morrison after the man pointed a 12-gauge shotgun at them, authorities said. All three officers were cleared in the shootings.