PLANT CITY — Police on Monday identified the two Plant City officers who opened fire on a stolen car a day earlier, killing the driver.
Cpl. Gerald Baker had positioned himself in front of a Honda Accord on Spooner Drive about 6 a.m. when the driver, 25-year-old Steven Kerr, Jr., put the car in drive and headed toward Baker, according to the Plant City Police Department. Baker didn’t have a path to escape because he was between the car and a chain link fence.
A second officer, Christian Lopez, was standing on the right side of the Honda. Both feared Baker’s life was threatened by the Honda and opened fire, police said.
Kerr was hit at least once and pronounced dead at the scene.
Baker is a 14-year veteran of the department. Lopez joined the department seven years ago. Both were placed on routine administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office conduct independent investigations of the shooting.
The incident unfolded after Baker and Lopez responded to a home on the 2100 block of Spooner Drive to locate the Honda, which had been stolen during an attempted robbery at the Mobil station at 2203 S Alexander St., according to police.
The officers spotted the Honda parked partially on the grass shoulder, parallel with a chain link fence, and used their flashlights to illuminate the interior. They saw driver, later identified as Kerr, behind the wheel.
As the officers announced their presence, Kerr started driving the Honda toward Baker, police said.
After the shooting, the Honda came to rest against the chain link fence.
The shooting happened in front of a home owned by Nancy Bryant, Kerr’s grandmother.
“We knew he was going to have to go to jail. And that’s fine, we knew he did wrong," Bryant said in an interview Sunday. "He deserved to go to jail. But he didn’t deserve to be killed.”