ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — In court for his first appearance in front of a judge, 31-year-old Corneilus Whitfield is accused of killing 3 of his family members with his 2-year-old niece in the house.
The St. Petersburg Police Department says he shot a fourth woman, but she survived.
The department believes he also killed a fourth person earlier this month on Feb. 2. The Police chief told city council members Thursday afternoon during his quarterly report, it’s one of several S.W.A.T-related incidents in the city recently which he called “unique.”
“Last year, the S.W.A.T team was only called out twice for the whole year, but within the past week they were called out twice, for two subjects that were wanted for homicide,” he said.
On Dec. 2, a 20-year-old man was shot by police more than 30 times and killed after they say he shot an officer.
A month later on Jan. 1., three people were hurt in a shooting overnight during an argument. A week and a half later, two people were shot outside their home and 2 weeks after that, a man was shot outside a food market.
The situation on Feb. 16 with Whitfield is the most recent. Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman commending Chief Holloway on the agency's response.
“I am happy that no one, and I mean the officers and the suspects, we’re not injured or hurt. Because those situations could have really turned badly. I am so grateful the 2-year-old little girl got out safely,” she said.
Holloway says overall crime in 2020 was down 15% but community members say they are concerned about the recent violence.
“What I’m more upset with is the silence from our leaders we can’t just throw money at an issue and think it’s gonna fix itself,” said Corey Givens Jr., a community activist. “We have to look at youth programs, we have to look at funding mental health programs we have to talk about job training and really get down to the root cause of gun violence.”
Holloway pointed out during the last three months of 2020 they had eight young offenders complete their second-chance program which is an alternative to court and keeps them from having an arrest record.