ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - St. Petersburg police have made an arrest for the murder of Officer David S. Crawford .
Chief Chuck Harmon said Nicholas Lindsey, 16, has admitted to shooting and killing Officer Crawford.
Harmon said Lindsey was brought in voluntarily with his parents' permission, and after several story changes, Lindsey gave a taped admission to what happened, which matched the evidence and testimony detectives had gathered.
Lindsey has had prior arrests, but for nothing violent, according to Harmon, mostly property crimes.
Harmon said during and after the confession, the boy was remorseful and cried.
Officer Crawford, 46, died after being shot multiple times in the chest while investigating a report of a prowler around 10:30 p.m. near 3rd Avenue South and 8th Street South.
Crawford was a 25-year veteran and had spent his entire career with the department.
An intense manhunt for the murderer covered a large area near downtown St. Petersburg. Some 200 law enforcement officers were involved in the search.
Regarding the bullet-proof vest, Chief Harmon said, "I got a question I promised I would answer as soon as I could last night. Officer Crawford was not wearing a vest last night. Our policy basically states that each officer is required to have one, but we do leave some discretion in the officer's hands."
Officer Crawford is the third St. Petersburg officer killed in the line of duty in less than a month.
"This killer has taken someone very precious to us," Chief Chuck Harmon said at an early morning news conference.
Prior to the shooting, a caller reported a suspect with a brick in the back yard of a neighbor's home and thought he might be attempting a break-in.
A unit was dispatched including Officer Donald Ziglar, 41, and Officer Crawford. Once on scene, Officer Crawford came across the suspect and gunfire was exchanged.
Officer Crawford was shot multiple times at close range. He was able to return fire. It is unknown if the suspect was hit, but there was no evidence at the scene to indicate he was injured, according to a police statement.
Officer Ziglar radioed back reporting shots fired and a request for assistance.
Officer Crawford was found on the pavement near his cruiser. He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
"I heard seven to nine shots all in a row and I ran outside and around the corner to see the commotion," said Fred Evans who lives in the area. "I saw someone running away really fast. I don't know if it was someone trying to flee the gunshots or the suspect."
Marie Woodward also heard the gunfire, "I just heard pop pop pop pop pop. You couldn't pay me enough to be a police officer. The job they do putting on a badge every day, I wouldn't want to do it."
Interstate exit ramps and several city blocks east of Tropicana Field were closed, and multiple agencies, including Homeland Security, joined in the search for the suspect.
Helicopters and canines were also used in the search for the gunman.
Three schools were closed as a result of the manhunt and students were directed to other campuses.
"The city has been through hell," said Mayor Bill Foster. "It took 30 years to lose an officer in the line of duty, and within 30 days, it has happened again."
"It hurts. There is a lot of pain," said Chief Harmon.
Officer Crawford joined the St. Petersburg Police Department in July, 1985. He is survived by his wife, Donna, and his 24-year-old daughter Amanda Midge Walsh.
The Department is still mourning the loss of Sergeant Thomas Baitinger and K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz. Both were killed by wanted fugitive Hydra Lacy, Jr. on January 24.
Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said tragedies such as this reinforce the resolve of the officers on the force.
"I don't think that there are many officers that are rethinking their careers," said Fridell. "They understand the danger. If anything, tragedies like this strengthen their commitment, particularly the commitment they have for fellow officers.
"I expect that particularly right now, officers are ever vigilant, maybe even increasingly vigilant, in the Tampa-St. Pete area as a result of these tragedies."
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