Pinellas deputy justified in killing of man who shot cop, state attorney rules

Sgt. Jacob Viano was justified in fatally shooting Zion Bostick after the 23-year-old fired a gun and injured another deputy.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office ruled that deputies were justified in fatally shooting a man who opened fire on them and wounded K-9 deputy Matthew Aitken, above.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office ruled that deputies were justified in fatally shooting a man who opened fire on them and wounded K-9 deputy Matthew Aitken, above. [ The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]
Published March 22|Updated March 24

A Pinellas deputy’s fatal shooting of a man who fired a gun at deputies, injuring one, was justified, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office determined this week.

On March 12, Sgt. Jacob Viano shot and killed Zion Bostick after the 23-year-old pulled a gun on deputies and shot Pinellas K-9 deputy Matthew Aitken, authorities said. Aitken was shot in his left wrist, right thigh and neck, resulting in temporary paralysis, according to the state attorney’s office.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bruce Bartlett detailed his office’s investigation into the shooting in a letter to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri on Wednesday.

Pinellas deputy Jesse Creaser was sent to the area near 63rd Street and 60th Avenue N in St. Petersburg after deputies received a report of an auto burglary about 6:15 p.m. Creaser spoke with a person who said he saw Bostick checking yards, parked vehicles and houses. The person told a friend to call the cops and followed Bostick down the street. The man told Creaser that he saw Bostick burglarize a neighbor’s Ford F-150 and that he recorded it on his cellphone.

Cpl. Nazir Amin went to the Grace Brethren Church to establish a perimeter and saw Bostick fleeing south along the church’s fence line, according to the letter. Amin called other deputies on his radio and Aitken and Viano began pursuing Bostick with Aitken’s K-9, Taco.

The dog tracked Bostick’s scent through a “heavily wooded area,” according to the letter, and deputies found a shoe he had been wearing. The scent trail lead to a 6-foot chain link fence with horizontal privacy slats, surrounding the backyard of a house. Aitken lifted Taco over the fence before climbing over it himself. Viano followed them, trailing about 25 feet behind.

As he came around the rear corner of the house, Aitken encountered Bostick and shouted at him to stop and put his hands up, according to the letter. Bostick fired three rounds at Aitken, striking him and causing him to pass out, the state attorney’s office found. The K-9 then charged at Bostick, who fired three times at Viano but missed, the letter said.

Viano dived out of the way, then approached Bostick and fired five rounds, three of which hit him, according to the state attorney’s office. The K-9 also latched onto Bostick’s arm.

Bostick was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. by Lealman Fire Rescue. Aitken was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he underwent surgery and was later released. He may need surgery in the future to remove bullet fragments, according to the letter.

Investigators found that Bostick used a stolen Taurus semi-automatic 9mm to fire at deputies, according to the letter. The gun was taken during an auto burglary in Ocala and reported stolen on Oct. 11. Bostick also had a Ruger semi-automatic 380 in his front-right pocket that was stolen from a car in Manatee County in 2018, according to the state attorney’s office. Investigators also found that Bostick was in possession of several rounds of ammunition.

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Bostick had served two prison sentences and shot Aitken on the one-year anniversary of his most recent release from prison, according to the letter. At the time of the shooting, there was a warrant for Bostick’s arrest, the letter said, as Bostick had missed a March 7 court date for criminal charges including burglary, attempted burglary, fleeing and eluding and driving while his license was suspended.

Bostick was facing a potential five-year sentence and had told his mother he wasn’t going back to prison, according to the state attorney’s office’s letter.