crimesider

St. Petersburg police officer David Crawford shot dead, city's third cop killed in weeks

Officer David Crawford
WTSP

(CBS/AP) ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Police searched Tuesday for the gunman who shot a policeman to death - St. Petersburg's third officer to be gunned down in less than a month - sealing off dozens of blocks near the Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium.

Officer David Crawford, a 25-year veteran of the force, was shot around 10:30 p.m. Monday as he was investigating a report of a suspicious person. In January, two officers were slain serving a warrant.

"This city has been through hell," Mayor Bill Foster said at a news conference. "Our hearts are broken."

Officers gathered at Bayfront Medical Center and saluted as a white van carried Crawford's body out of the hospital.

"It hurts," Police Chief Chuck Harmon said outside the hospital. "It stings. This killer has taken someone very precious to us, a member of our family."

The 46-year-old Crawford was married with an adult daughter.

Harmon said he could see the shock on the faces of his officers.

"As I saw their faces tonight it was ... not again," Harmon said.  The FBI and St. Petersburg Police are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Crawford's killer, according to  CBS affiliate WTSP.

St. Petersburg police said the shooting happened after two officers were called to a neighborhood just south of Tropicana Field to investigate a report of a prowler.

Crawford, 46, spotted a suspect and got out of his vehicle. At 10:37 p.m., another officer, Donald J. 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.

By Tuesday morning, SWAT teams, a helicopter, dozens of law enforcement and dogs were searching for the gunman. There was no evidence that the suspect was injured during the gunfire exchange, authorities said.

Pinellas County Schools announced that a middle school and two elementary schools near the scene were closed and students sent to attend nearby schools. The FBI and the St. Petersburg Police also were offering a reward of $50,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the suspect.

The Tampa Bay area has had six officers shot to death in the line of duty in the last two years.

Monday's shooting happened about four miles from where the two officers were gunned down in January. Officers Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Thomas Baitinger were killed as they helped serve a warrant on a man with a long criminal history.