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Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.
Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.
Published Jun. 22, 2017

TARPON SPRINGS — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has released a fact-finding report that largely mirrors an earlier investigation that ruled the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza last month was a "justifiable homicide."

The FDLE findings were similar to those made in a Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office report earlier this month. The State Attorney's report concluded that Tarpon Springs police Officer Scott MacIsaac was justified in using deadly force in that May 6 incident at a charity car show. FDLE does not act on its findings, but will send its report to prosecutors to review.

State investigators interviewed the officer, a Tarpon Springs 911 dispatcher who was off-duty at the car show, several first-responders and 20 civilian witnesses — many of whom were located through social media — to piece together the following summary:

MacIsaac was in uniform working an off-duty assignment at the May 6 car show when he received reports from the owner of the Mad Hatter General Store at 161 E Tarpon Ave. that Provenza was "acting erratic and bothering customers" at the shop. MacIsaac found Provenza near E Tarpon Avenue and N Safford Avenue.

He attempted to identify Provenza, who provided several false names, according to the report. MacIsaac asked Provenza why he gave him false information. The officer gave FDLE this account:

"That's not going to go," the officer told Provenza.

"I just want to go. You scare me," Provenza said.

The report said Provenza then reached into his left pants pocket. Doug Renker, the dispatcher, and MacIsaac told Provenza to take his hand out. Instead, they said Provenza removed what looked like a knife, but which was later determined to be a homemade sharp object.

Provenza then lunged at the officer, the report said. MacIsaac told him to drop the object several times but he kept at it, the report said.

MacIsaac pulled out his gun and shot Provenza three times, the report said. The first and second shots "had no effect on Provenza," the report said, but the third shot felled him.

The State Attorney's Office released a report earlier this month exonerating MacIsaac that included most of the same details.

FDLE's findings disappointed Provenza's father, Charlie Provenza, who said Thursday he thought it didn't take a critical enough look.

"I thought that it would be more of an unbiased overview of what happened," he said, "but it seems to be in defense of the officer and his actions."

Both reports note that his son was taken to Largo Medical Center the day before under the Baker Act, a law allowing for the involuntary commitment of people believed to be a danger to themselves or others. He escaped from the hospital and was reported as a missing person by the Largo Police Department.

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Charlie Provenza said his son's behavior, plus the statement he made to the officer that he was scared, show the officer didn't use his crisis intervention training, which teaches law enforcement officers how to de-escalate situations when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. MacIsaac completed the training in April.

Nick Provenza has along history of mental illness and has interacted with police through the Baker Act about 25 times. He's never been aggressive toward officers, his father said.

"Obviously this officer was trained and didn't utilize his training," Charlie Provenza said, "and it ended tragically."

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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