Teen arrested in slaying of Florida officer

SWAT team members investigate a home Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla. A manhunt is underway after a veteran St. Petersburg police officer was shot and killed Monday.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A 16-year-old boy will be charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of a St. Petersburg, Fla., police officer, authorities said late Tuesday.

Police Chief Chuck Harmon said the 16-year-old is in custody and admitted to what happened.

Officer David Crawford was shot Monday night while investigating a report of a prowler in a neighborhood just south of Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays play baseball.

Officials said Crawford was shot multiple times at close range. He is the third St. Petersburg officer killed in the line of duty in the past month.

Harmon said it will be up to prosecutors whether to charge the teen as an adult or juvenile. The shooting happened after two officers were called to investigate a report of a prowler. Crawford, 46, spotted a suspect and got out of his car.

At 10:37 p.m., another officer, Donald Ziglar, reported an exchange of gunfire and told dispatchers an officer was down.

Ziglar found Crawford lying on the pavement near his cruiser, police said. He had been shot multiple times at close range. Officials said Crawford was not wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Helicopters, SWAT teams, dozens of law enforcement officers and dogs searched for the gunman, and a swath of the city was closed to traffic for a time. There was no evidence that the suspect was injured during the gun battle, Harmon said.

The FBI, the St. Petersburg police and other groups also were offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the suspect.

Crawford, who was married, eligible for retirement and the father of an adult daughter, was pronounced dead at a hospital. Officers saluted the van that carried his body to the medical examiner's office Tuesday morning.

On Jan. 24, two St. Petersburg officers, Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Thomas Baitinger, were killed as they helped serve a warrant on a man with a long criminal history. Their killer died in the siege.

Before that, no St. Petersburg Police Department officer had been killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years.

"We're not even done healing from the first tragedy, then boom, we have a second one," said Detective Mark Marland, who also is the St. Petersburg police union president.

Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said such tragedies reinforce the resolve of the officers.

"I don't think that there are many officers that are rethinking their careers," Fridell said. "They understand the danger. If anything, tragedies like this strengthen their commitment, particularly the commitment they have for fellow officers.

Maki Haberfeld, chairwoman of the Department of Law & Police Science at John Jay College in New York, said she suspects that officers in St. Petersburg will be more anxious in the coming months. "The issue is whether or not they are going to be more willing to use force, lethal force," Haberfeld said.

Crisis counselors have been called to help.

"Officers unfortunately don't get downtime to show their emotions," said Michael Krohn, the executive director of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.