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Two officers and a gunman killed in St. Petersburg shootout

 

St. Petersrburg Times

ST. PETERSBURG - Two St. Petersburg police officers and a gunman were fatally shot and a U.S. marshal was injured early Monday in gunfire that broke out as police tried to serve a domestic battery warrant at a St. Petersburg home.

``Our community has suffered a loss today,'' St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon said during a somber press conference with Mayor Bill Foster outside Bayfront Medical Center.

Suncoast Benevolent Association President Mark Marland confirmed the fallen officers as Sgt. Tom Baitinger and Jeffrey Yaslowitz.

By Monday afternoon, police were able to enter the home where the shooting happened. They confirmed that the shooter, Hydra Lacy Jr., also was dead.

The St. Petersburg officers became the first killed during service since 1980. Harmon said the wives of both were notified and ``in shock.''

Yaslowitz, 39, joined the department in 1999. He was part of the department's K-9 unit. He is survived by his wife Lorraine and three young children - two boys ages 5 and 12 and an 8-year-old daughter.

Baitinger, 48, had been with the department since 1996. He is survived by his wife Paige.

``I consider them friends . . . and I'm going to miss them,'' Harmon said at an afternoon press conference at police headquarters. ``It's a very hard day for the police department. It's a very hard day for the community.''

While he spoke, Harmon clutched items that belonged to the fallen officers, including a badge, a wedding ring and bracelet.

``I'm having a hard time letting go of them,'' he said.A group of five St. Petersburg police officers stood around a cruiser outside Yaslowitz's home in northwest Hillsborough County. Some were in uniform, some were not; all looked grief-stricken. Sgt. David Barr, who supervised Yaslowitz's unit and was in his police vehicle farther down the road, said the officers needed time before speaking about their colleague, but called him ``the best.''

An officer out front of Baitinger's house told those who stopped by that his wife wasn't accepting visitors.

The officers were shot Monday morning after approaching a home in the Perry Bayview neighborhood where Lacy, a known sex offender, according to records, was being served a U.S. Marshal's warrant through a fugitive task force.

A marshal who responded to the scene also was shot and is expected to survive. His name will not be released.

Officers arrived at 3734 28th Ave. S. to interview Lacy's wife at 7 a.m. When it became clear the suspect was in the attic and armed, more officers arrived. One of them was Yaslowitz, who was done with his shift and on his way home when he answered the call for assistance.

At. 7:29 a.m., officers on scene reported gunshots and officers down.

Yaslowitz and the marshal were hit first when they tried to arrest Lacy, who refused to surrender, police spokesman Mike Puetz said.

Yaslowitz fell wounded inside the attic, officials said, while the marshal tumbled to the first floor.

Other officers, including Baitinger, attempted a rescue. That's when Baitinger was fatally shot in the upper torso.

Baitinger and the marshal were eventually taken from inside the house and transported to the hospital. Yaslowitz remained trapped inside and was rescued later by a tactical unit.

``It doesn't look good,'' Harmon said shortly after Yaslowitz was taken away.

Harmon said the gunman was initially armed with some sort of pistol, probably a semi-automatic.

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