Police cleared of killing man who shot 2 officers

A wanted fugitive hiding in a cramped attic laid down on his stomach and appeared to surrender just before igniting a gunfight that left two St. Petersburg police officers dead last month, according to a report released Thursday by the region's chief prosecutor.

The report from State Attorney Bernie McCabe offers the fullest description yet of the desperate struggle between Hydra Lacy Jr. and two officers who tried to roust him out of an attic crawl space Jan. 24. It also clears the officers who returned fire and killed Lacy.

Lacy, who had served time in prison and was wanted on a warrant, appeared to be surrendering before he rolled over and began tussling with St. Petersburg Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz in the attic, the report said.

Lacy shot three law enforcement officers. Yaslowitz, 39, was killed by two shots to the head, the report said. Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Ley, who repeatedly used a stun gun to try to subdue Lacy in the attic, was wounded. St. Petersburg police Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger, 48, was killed on the ground when Lacy started firing through the attic floor. Lacy fired shots from his own gun and from the one he took from Yaslowitz.

The report clears 10 other officers who fired at Lacy from outside the attic, calling his death "justifiable homicide." The medical examiner determined Lacy was shot 10 times. His body fell through the attic floor after police used heavy equipment to tear down parts of the house to get to him. The house, which belonged to his wife, Christine, was torn down completely the next day. Lacy was a brother of professional boxer Jeff Lacy.

McCabe's report cited the "repeated acts of heroism" by other officers who struggled to get their wounded colleagues out of the house while Lacy was still shooting.

The release of the report comes three days after another St. Petersburg officer, 46-year-old David S. Crawford, was fatally shot by a prowler near downtown. A 16-year-old boy has been charged.

"There's not a day that goes by that an officer on this department in this city doesn't face a risky situation," police Chief Chuck Harmon said. "It's commonplace for us to go to a dark building, respond to a suspicious circumstance. Ninety-nine percent of the time it's OK, but there's a small fraction of the time, over the last few days, it's become apparent, that some of those encounters don't turn out the way you want them to."

The St. Petersburg department is conducting its own investigation into the procedures used by its officers but that report is not yet complete.


Associated Press writer Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.