ST. PETERSBURG — Months before an encounter between Austin Kingos and two police officers ended in a spray of gunfire, he visited a local smoke shop and chatted with a sales clerk.
Jennah Glassberg had recently moved to St. Petersburg with her partner, she said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, and Kingos suggested they exchange phone numbers to become friends. Glassberg and her partner hung out one time at Kingos’ Gandy area apartment but left after 20 minutes, put off because he kept interrupting them and acting strangely.
From there, a bizarre and unwanted pursuit unfolded, according to Glassberg and court records. It would culminate Saturday in an encounter between Kingos and a police officer that ended in gunshots, a bullet wound for Kingos and a narrow miss for the officer.
“This is a case where the intersection of guns, drugs and a person with mental health issues led to a very bad result, but one that could have been much worse,” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference Tuesday. “And we’re very thankful that both officers were uninjured.”
After that unsettling hangout in mid-April at Kingos’ apartment, Kingos texted Glassberg that he was so in love with her he couldn’t eat or sleep.
“I told him his feelings were entirely one-sided and that I wanted nothing to do with him,” Glassberg said. She blocked his phone number.
But Kingos wouldn’t stop. He showed up at the smoke shop several times trying to talk to her. During one visit, Glassberg said, he started arguing with her and insisted they had been communicating telepathically. He wouldn’t leave until another customer intervened to help Glassberg.
She quit her job at the shop. Then, Kingos started showing up at the apartment where she lived with her partner.
“My partner and I were terrified,” Glassberg said. “We carried that fear with us every day after.”
It got so bad that, on June 2, she asked the courts for protection. A judge sided with her June 15 and issued an injunction active through June 2024. Part of the conditions were that Kingos couldn’t have any guns. He swore, under oath, that he didn’t have any in his possession, according to court records.
Still, according to Glassberg and police, Kingos continued trying to reach her, this time sending packages to her apartment. He had 40 packages delivered over nine days, she said, mostly groceries and pizza. The latest packages came Saturday. Inside them were a lactation massager and a baby toy.
“I almost vomited on my front doorstep when I saw them,” Glassberg said.
She reported each package to St. Petersburg police, who determined there was probable cause to arrest Kingos on a charge of violating the injunction. Officers went to his apartment at 10790 Third Street N.
Dashboard and body-worn camera footage shows what happened next.
Officer Ronald McKenzie asks Kingos for identification. Kingos asks why he’s asking. McKenzie identifies himself and says they just need to talk. The officer opens the door to the van then grabs Kingos’ arm. The two scuffle and Kingos kicks his legs out of the car.
Meantime, Officer Pavel Kuznetsov arrives. The view from his body-worn camera shows Kingos, still in the driver’s seat of the van, pointing a semiautomatic handgun toward the officers.
Then, Kingos shoots once. According to Gualtieri, Kuznetsov could hear the bullet whiz by his head. McKenzie fires seven rounds toward the van. One hits Kingos in the leg. Kingos jumps out of the van from the passenger door and takes off. The officers chase him. He eventually drops his gun, lies on the ground and officers arrest him at 108th Avenue and Fourth Street.
On Tuesday, Kingos remained in the Pinellas County jail on charges including attempted murder of a police officer, battery on a law enforcement officer and the original injunction violation.
Kingos told the Times in an interview from jail that he was upset because the officer tried to get into his van without a warrant and wouldn’t tell him why he was there. He saw the officer reach for his gun and was in fear for his life, Kingos said. He said he fired his own gun as a “warning shot.”
“If I were going to hit you, then I would have,” Kingos said. “I deliberately chose not to hit him ... I would not want to take a life.”
Kingos said he bought the gun from a Bass Pro Shops location sometime last year. When asked why he said under oath he didn’t have any guns, he said he thought the court was asking if he had any guns on him at that moment.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Gualtieri said family members told police that Kingos had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and had been prescribed medication to treat those illnesses. Given his mental health problems, Gualtieri said, Kingos was also supposed to refrain from drug use. But recently, Kingos stopped taking that medication and began using marijuana, Gualtieri said.
For Glassberg, finding out Kingos had a gun made her even more afraid of what could have happened. But news of his arrest gave her a “warm feeling of peace,” she said, adding that St. Petersburg police “were wonderful in their response.”
“I applaud the self-control of the arresting officers and I wish them protection and happiness,” she said.
“I’m glad he is in jail,” she said. “I hope he stays there a long time. I will be waiting to hear the sentencing so I can forget about him and heal from this ordeal.”
Staff writer Genevieve Redsten contributed to this report.