Sergeant Tom Baitinger St. Petersburg Police Department Florida End of Watch: Monday, January 24, 2011

Photograph: Sergeant Tom BaitingerPatch image: St. Petersburg Police Department, Florida

Sergeant Tom Baitinger
St. Petersburg Police Department

End of Watch: Monday, January 24, 2011

Biographical Info
Age: 41
Tour of Duty: 15 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Monday, January 24, 2011
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: Shot and killed

Sergeant Tom Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were shot and killed while attempting serve a warrant on a suspect wanted for aggravated battery.
Several members of a regional task force had gone to the home to question a family member about the man’s whereabouts. After making contact with the woman, the officers were informed that the man was in the attic and possibly armed.
Officer Yaslowitz, who served on the department’s canine unit, had just finished his shift and was en route home when he volunteered to respond to the call.
After unsuccessfully attempting to talk the man out of the attic, Officer Yaslowitz and a member of the United States Marshals Service made entry into the attic and were immediately shot.
Another officer was able to pull the deputy marshal from the attic but was unable to reach Officer Yaslowitz. The suspect then fired from the attic, striking Sergeant Baitinger who was providing cover from the main level.
A SWAT team used a tactical vehicle to breach a wall of the home and came under fire, but was able to recover Officer Yaslowitz. Officer Yaslowitz and Sergeant Baitinger were both transported to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead.
The suspect was found dead several hours later after the home was partially dismantled using heavy machinery.
Sergeant Baitinger had served with the St. Petersburg Police Department for 15 years. He is survived by his wife.

Related Line of Duty Deaths

Patch image: St. Petersburg Police Department, Florida
Police Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz
St. Petersburg Police Department, FL
EOW: Monday, January 24, 2011
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Agency Contact Information
St. Petersburg Police Department
1300 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Phone: (727) 893-7780
Please contact the St. Petersburg Police Department for funeral arrangements or for survivor benefit fund information.

Parallel tragedies unfold in St. Petersburg, Miami


While thousands were mourning two slain Miami-Dade officers, two other officers were murdered while serving warrants on dangerous fugitives in the Tampa Bay area.


As thousands paid their final respects to two murdered Miami-Dade police officers Monday morning, two other officers on the West Coast of Florida were gunned down in an eerily similar way: searching for a career criminal.

Both sets of officers on each coast were trying to serve arrest warrants on a dangerous fugitive. And both found themselves unexpectedly confronting the suspect. But the two tragedies unfolded much differently.

In St. Petersburg, officers went into an attic where a suspected gunman was holed up after a relative in the home told them he was there, the city’s police chief told reporters Monday afternoon.

Police reinforcements were called in. When the firefight was over, Sgt. Tom Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were dead, as was suspected gunman Hydra Lacy Jr. A deputy U.S. marshal was also shot and wounded.

Four days earlier in Liberty City, suspected murderer Johnny Simms ambushed Miami-Dade detectives Roger Castillo and Amanda Haworth in the living room and doorway of a Liberty City duplex, immediately after Simm’s mother opened the door for the police.

Both incidents began with detectives assigned to a U.S. Marshals Service task force that tracks and arrests dangerous fugitives. A SWAT team was not alerted during the fatal shootings in Miami. One was mobilized for the St. Petersburg incident — after the officers had been shot.

“I don’t know of anything that we could have been done differently,” said Pete Cajigal, assistant chief of the U.S. Marshals Service in Tampa. “But of course, anytime someone in law enforcement is shot or killed, we try to take something from it.”

As policy, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was notified by the Marshals Service to review the shootings in St. Petersburg, Cajigal said.

Warrants detectives on the marshals’ task force have a unique job because they are actively hunting for fugitive suspects that may be moving from place to place. Heavily armed SWAT teams are not usually mobilized until there’s a fixed location once a barricaded suspect or illegal activity has been pinpointed, law enforcement experts say.

William Berger, the incoming U.S. Marshal for the Tampa area, said it’s too early to tell if the service will need to reassess its tactics and policies. He said he was left “speechless” by the attacks on law enforcement in recent days.

“They’ve been doing this for years this way. It’s hard to explain,” Berger, a former chief of the North Miami Beach Police Department, said of the task force. “They’ve effected virtually hundreds, if not thousands, of arrests on a yearly basis.”

A memorial for Castillo and Haworth, held at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, was gearing up Monday morning just as the drama unfolded 265 miles to the northwest.

Lacy, a convicted rapist with a long rap sheet, was wanted on a warrant for domestic aggravated battery. Assigned to find him: a U.S. Marshals task force that included a deputy marshal and officers from Pinellas County and St. Petersburg.

Around 7 a.m. officers went to the home to gather intelligence, and a woman told police Lacy might be in the attic, armed, St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon said at an afternoon press conference.

At 7:11 a.m., the radio call went out that the man might be holed up in the house. Backup St. Petersburg police officers arrived, including Baitinger and Yaslowitz, a K9 officer who had just finished his shift and was on his way home when he responded to the call, Harmon said. At 7:29 a.m., the first gunshots rang out. Harmon said Yaslowitz and the deputy marshal were shot as they went into the attic to try to arrest Lacy.

In a rescue attempt, officers pulled out the federal agent but couldn’t retrieve Yaslowitz, whose body remained in the attic. During the rescue attempt, Baitinger, who had a “ballistic shield or had a vest on,” was shot from above, Harmon said.

Between 9 and 9:30 a.m., St. Peterburg’s SWAT team exchanged gunfire with Lacy, who died later in the day. By the time the shooting ended, between 150 to 200 rounds had been fired, Harmon said.

The chief said there will be a time in the future for the department to “look back and learn” from the incident.

Don Alwes, a trainer with the National Tactical Officers Association, said the decision to enter the attic just after being told a gunman was barricaded in the attic was “curious.” SWAT teams can spend hours using hostage negotiators, and even gas canisters to smoke their target out.

“If you’ve got a barricaded subject and it doesn’t look like anyone is being harmed, time is on your side,” Alwes said.

But Alwes stressed that the investigation is still unfolding, and both episodes could provide clues for improving officers’ safety in the future. “It may just be that when all the dust settles, everything at the end of the day was done reasonably, and it was just a bad day to be a cop,” he said.

David Klinger, associate professor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, who specializes in law enforcement, said that while the separate cases in Miami and St. Petersburg started out with similar approaches to arresting the suspects, the circumstances diverged quickly at the scene.

In Miami, there wasn’t much the officers could do because they were ambushed by the shooter after they were greeted by his mother at the front door of her home.

But in St. Petersburg, the suspect was hiding in the attic so the officers knew it was going to be a difficult situation, Klinger said. And when the woman at the door said the suspect might be in the attic, police made the right move calling in for reinforcements, he said.

At that point, they should have tred to talk him into surrendering. But if he refused — as he may have — they should have called in the SWAT unit.

“Why they didn’t do that I don’t know,” said Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer and author of Into the Kill Zone. “That’s a classic barricaded gunman. Once you call in SWAT, you set up that command post with the perimeters.”

Cajigal, the marshals’ assistant chief in Tampa, disagreed.

“We know what we can handle and what we can’t handle,” Cajigal said. “If anybody thought that SWAT should have been there, they would have called them. They came in after the shootings.”

Yaslowitz, 39, a St. Peterburg officer since 1999, is survived by his wife and three young children. Baitinger, 48, with the department since 1996, is survived by his wife, Paige.




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