Fla. police-killing suspect known as quiet teen

AP News
Posted: Feb 23, 2011 6:06 PM
Fla. police-killing suspect known as quiet teen

By many accounts, the 16-year-old accused of killing a veteran St. Petersburg police officer was a quiet kid with few friends who dreamed of playing professional football.

Nicholas Lindsey once saw a school employee in a grocery store, gave her a hug and bought her a Pepsi. Friends called him humble.

Yet there were other parts of Lindsey's life that indicated trouble _ although those clues weren't all that unusual in the poor neighborhood on St. Petersburg's south side where Lindsey lived. He skipped school repeatedly. He was accused of stealing a car. He bought a gun on the street for $140.

It was the same gun Lindsey would use to shoot and kill officer David Crawford, according to authorities. Police said Wednesday that the teen opened fire after Crawford tried to talk to him and pulled a notepad from his shirt pocket.

It took investigators about a day to find the teen. A street video surveillance photo released to local TV stations made his mother wonder if it was her son. After tips led police to the Lindsey home, she helped convince him to turn himself in.

Lindsey was arrested Tuesday night and booked into a juvenile detention center. On Wednesday, a judge ordered him held without bail.

The Associated Press does not usually identify juveniles until they are charged in adult court, but authorities released his name and the teen's photo has been widely disseminated.

During a news conference Wednesday at police headquarters. Sgt. Michael Kovascev laid out the details of how Crawford was killed _ making him the third St. Petersburg officer to die in a 30-day span.

About 10:30 p.m. Monday evening, Crawford was called to check out a report of someone trying to break into a car.

Crawford pulled up in his cruiser and spotted Lindsey. The officer climbed out of the car, tried to talk to Lindsey _ who was walking away _ and took out his notepad.

It was then, Kovascev said, that Lindsey turned and fired at least four shots into Crawford's torso. Crawford managed to pull his weapon and fire six shots at Lindsey, who wasn't hit.

Crawford wasn't wearing a bulletproof vest, and another officer found Crawford lying on the pavement near his cruiser.

The 46-year-old officer had worked for the agency for 25 years, and was eligible for retirement. A horse lover, Crawford and his wife lived north of St. Petersburg in a rural county. He had an adult daughter and many friends on the police force _ friends who were already grieving for the two slain officers who died in January.

A massive, 24-hour manhunt involving hundreds of police officers ensued.

Police said Lindsey walked quickly home after the shooting and somehow evaded the perimeter set up by officers. He left behind one clue _ his flip flop _ and he was captured on an apartment complex surveillance camera.

Those clues would crack the case. When local TV stations broadcast the video Tuesday afternoon, officials received dozens of tips. Several pointed to Lindsey. Officers went to his house, located in a low-slung, yellow stucco building with sofas piled in the garbage cans and dirty stray cats slinking past muddy potholes.

At the home, investigators asked if the teen would come in for questioning. His mother, who had already questioned her son about his involvement, urged him to cooperate and accompanied him to the police station.

"I told my son, 'Man up and tell them what happened,'" Deneen Sweat told local media.

The boy did, police said, and even began crying during the questioning. Lindsey didn't precisely explain why he fired on the officer, but told investigators he didn't want to be caught with a weapon, Kovascev said.

Public Defender Bob Dillinger said he has assigned Lindsey a lawyer who specializes in cases in which minors are charged as adults.

"This is just a tragedy every way you look at it," said Dillinger, declining to comment further.

As Lindsey spent his first day Wednesday in a juvenile detention center, those who knew him expressed disbelief.

"If you would have put him in a lineup with some of the other kids here, he would have been the last person I would have suspected doing something this grave," said Sherry Howard, a volunteer coordinator at Lindsey's high school. "Never. Never."

Howard said she knew the teen since middle school and said that while he was having problems with school attendance, she thought of him as a quiet, polite boy who liked playing youth football.

When she saw him over the summer in a grocery store, Howard gently chided him about making sure he went to class when school started. Lindsey gave Howard a hug and bought her a Pepsi.

"I've met other kids who have no respect for authority figures. That's not him," said Howard. "For him to be the kid to have done this, I'm baffled."

A neighbor, 17-year-old Danisha Walker said Lindsey was her friend and said he was a gentle kid. He had several football trophies from when he played in youth leagues, she added.

"Humble," she said. "For him to be the person to do this, it wasn't even an option. Something ain't right."

Lindsey's parents were supportive of the teen confessing to authorities, police said, and encouraged him to tell the truth. They'd had legal troubles of their own.

Court records show that Lindsey's mother was sentenced to probation for writing worthless checks. She was also evicted from at least two apartments. The teen's father, Nicholas Lindsey Sr. _ who tearfully addressed the court Wednesday _ has an arrest record, including being put on probation for possessing cocaine and marijuana and for driving with a suspended license.

Nicholas Lindsey Sr. appeared in court Wednesday to support his son and issued a public apology there.

"On behalf of me, my son and our entire family, we send our deepest concerns and sympathy to the family and his colleagues that he works with," said the father, who broke into tears. "This is my only son and I'm sorry that this happened."

His son, dressed in an orange jail uniform, was also crying.