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State Attorney's Office: Fatal shooting of man by Tarpon Springs police officer is justified

Nick Provenza, 25, with his dad, Charlie Provenza. [Courtesy of Charlie Provenza]
Nick Provenza, 25, with his dad, Charlie Provenza. [Courtesy of Charlie Provenza]
Published Jun. 10, 2017

TARPON SPRINGS — The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has found that the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old man by a Tarpon Springs officer last month is "justifiable homicide."

Officer Scott MacIsaac has returned to work, said Tarpon Springs police Chief Robert P. Kochen on Friday.

According to police, MacIsaac shot Nick Provenza on May 6 during a charity car show downtown. On Thursday, Kochen received a letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe detailing the office's investigation through witness accounts and video from a surveillance camera and a bystander, and ultimately found the officer was justified.

"He's an excellent officer and he did everything he could in that situation," Kochen said.

Although the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, Kochen said its findings, when he asked, were consistent with the state attorney's.

Provenza of Palm Harbor had a troubled mental health history. The Friday before the shooting he had been placed into protective custody under the Baker Act and taken to Largo Medical Center. But he walked out of the emergency room, something that's still shocking to his father, Charlie Provenza.

Provenza, 57, said the state attorney's report raises more questions than answers.

"It's clear to me that the officer was told that my son was not mentally stable," he said. "Why did he make the decision to shoot to kill?"

MacIsaac, hired in 2011, had completed crisis intervention training, which teaches officers how to handle situations involving people with mental illness.

On May 6 about 1:30 p.m., a visitor approached MacIsaac and told him "this guy is not right" after watching Provenza talk to workers at Mad Hatter, a vintage accessories shop. According to another witness, Provenza's demeanor appeared stressed and anxious. On the sidewalk, he got on his knees and began to bow.

About six minutes later, MacIsaac found Provenza on his bike near E Tarpon and Safford avenues and began asking him some questions.

According to the report, Provenza gave a name that turned up no records, so the officer asked again. Provenza gave a different name, which MacIsaac started to say into the radio, when another officer noticed Provenza reaching into his pocket with his left hand.

MacIsaac ordered Provenza several times to stop. Instead, Provenza dropped his bike and took out what looked like a knife, or "shank" from his pocket. It was about 5 inches long and shaped in the form of a pocketknife blade with a pointed end.

He pointed it, McCabe wrote, and told the officer, "You're not going to ruin my dreams."

Provenza charged at MacIsaac, who backpedaled. The officer ordered him to drop the object several times, but Provenza advanced.

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"Stop," witnesses heard MacIsaac say as Provenza continued, forcing him into the middle of the intersection.

"After repeated commands to drop the knife and 'shank,' officer MacIsaac drew his pistol and fired three shots at Provenza," McCabe's letter states.

He was taken to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he was pronounced dead. McCabe's letter also states that a screen found cannabinoids, the chemical compounds in marijuana, in his blood.

"It was reasonable for Officer MacIsaac to believe that it was necessary to use deadly force to defend himself," McCabe wrote.

Charlie Provenza said it was what the officers didn't do that disturbed him the most. Video of his son lying on the ground after he was shot has circulated online.

"He just laid there, gasping for air, dying," he said. "Would he have survived with three gunshot wounds, I don't know, but it would've been nice to have someone hold his head, hold his hand."

Staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report.

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