Advertisement
  1. News

Man chasing pedestrians with ax shot by officer, report says

Investigators secure the scene at Fourth Street, between Central Avenue and First Avenue N, on Monday in St. Petersburg, where a man wielding an ax about 6:45 p.m. was shot and killed by an officer. The man’s name was not released.
Published Sep. 24, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Police shot and killed an ax-wielding man who was chasing people Monday evening around a downtown city block.

The man's alarming pursuit ended about 6:45 p.m. when he encountered an officer across from the open-air post office.

"The first thing the officer saw was a group coming around the corner, in a panic," said police spokesman Mike Puetz. "Then a guy with an ax."

Police and witnesses said the man ignored the officer's orders to drop the weapon, a fireman's ax featuring a long, yellow handle and a red blade. The man kept charging and appeared to be ready to swing at the officer, witnesses said.

"He got within approximately 7 feet and the officer discharged his weapon multiple times," Puetz said.

Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene. Police said they believe the dead man was a 27-year-old transient, but did not release his name Monday night.

"We believe he may have had some mental issues in the past," Puetz said.

The man's covered body was on the sidewalk on the east side of Fourth Street, between Central Avenue and First Avenue N next to the city municipal services building, as detectives investigated.

One of the building's first-floor windows was broken, pierced by the officer's bullet. Puetz said a second officer was initially called to the scene but did not discharge his weapon.

Neither officer was immediately identified. As is standard procedure, the officer who fired will be taken off the streets as simultaneous criminal, internal affairs and state prosecution investigations take place.

"They gave him a warning," said Ashton Stottler, 33. "I heard them say 'raise your hands' and 'drop that.' "

Stottler, who was hovering near the city building shortly after the shooting, said he was one of the people chased by the man. He said he sometimes hangs out downtown, but he did not recognize the ax-wielding man.

"We were just passing through," he said. "Walking down the street. And then he just pulled out an ax and started chasing us down the street. He chased us from Williams Park to around the corner."

This is the third time this month St. Petersburg police officers have shot and killed a person, and the sixth time this year. On Sept. 7, officers shot and killed a man on his front porch after he leveled a gun at officers. Five days earlier, they'd shot and killed a different man on his front porch after they said he threatened his neighbor and pointed a gun at an officer. Those shooting are still under investigation.

As cruisers descended downtown Monday night, Williams Park — known as a magnet for the city's homeless, emptied. Less than an hour later, the usually sizable transient population scattered as the rain fell harder.

Those who lingered passed on tidbits of information to gawkers who wandered over from office buildings and bars to snap cellphone pictures.

Mike Smith, 42, said he lives downtown and wanted to see what the commotion was about.

"I heard the man's bicycle was stolen earlier, and he came back with an ax," Smith said. "That's what the streets said."

Police said they could not confirm that. Puetz said detectives did get information that someone saw the man earlier in the day with the ax. It was not immediately clear if anyone called the police at that time.

Smith huddled under a large umbrella and watched the officers work for a while.

"Wow," he murmured. "That's major. But if the cops say put it down … you're supposed to put it down."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tropical storm Sebastien has developed in the Atlantic and now has an 80 percent chance of turning into a tropical cyclone. [National Hurricane Center] National Hurricane Center
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service do not expect the storm to threaten land.
  2. Pasco school bus drivers are among those school-related employees who would get a 3.25 percent raise under a tentative contract agreement for 2019-20.
    District, union attention now turns to teacher contracts.
  3. Jose Vasquez, Jr., 22, of Tampa was charged with manslaughter on Monday after a man he fought outside the Brandon Crossroads bowling alley on Nov. 10, 2019 died from his injuries, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    The man Jose Vasquez, Jr. fought outside of Brandon Crossroads hit his head twice on the pavement and died on Saturday, deputies said.
  4. In this Thursday, Aug. 1, file photo, Amanda Kondrat'yev, the woman accused of throwing a sports drink at U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in June outside a town hall meeting, arrives at Winston Arnow Federal Court House in Pensacola, Fla. Kondrat'yev has been sentenced to 15 days in federal custody for throwing the sports drink at Gaetz. TONY GIBERSON  |  AP
    Amanda Kondrat’yev pleaded guilty to assault in August and had faced up to a year in jail.
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Charges are pending, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  6. Maxwell Guss, 34, of Bradenton was arrested on Monday afternoon on two counts of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct by a person over 18. Sarasota Police Department
    Maxwell Guss has been on administrative leave from Brookside Middle School, where he was a business teacher.
  7. Travelers make their way to baggage claim at Orlando International Airport in August. Officials expect 1.75 million passengers to pass through the airport during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
    Officials at Orlando International Airport on Monday said they expect traffic to increase 6% from 2018.
  8. Fresno Police Chief Andrew Hall addresses the media as community leaders and personnel stand behind him about a shooting at a house party which involved multiple fatalities and injuries in Fresno, Calif., Monday. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian) GARY KAZANJIAN  |  AP
    Police were investigating whether the shooting was connected to a recent “disturbance” involving some of the people at the party.
  9. In this Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Vindman is set to deliver public testimony about President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Democrats and Republicans are expected to press contrasting narratives about the 20-year Army veteran’s decision to come forward to allege abuse of power by his commander-in-chief. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams say they had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president.
  10. This two photo combination image taken from video released June 21, 2017, by the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, shows kidnapped teachers Australian Timothy Weekes, top, and American Kevin King, who were both abducted by the insurgents in Afghanistan in August 2016. Three ranking Taliban prisoners released by the Kabul government have been flown to Qatar for an expected swap for the American and the Australian hostage held by the insurgents since their abduction in 2016, Taliban officials said Tuesday. (EL-EMARA Taliban via AP, File) AP
    The hostages were released in southern Zabul province, ending their more than three years in captivity.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement