As many 200 rounds were fired in a close-quarters firefight inside the attic of a Florida home, leaving two cops dead along with ex-con who was wanted for aggravated battery.
After the initial volley of gunfire, and news that two St. Petersburg Police Department officers and a deputy U.S. marshal had been wounded, SWAT officers entered the home again in a dangerous rescue operation that involved more gunfire, tear gas, and an armored truck that rammed the house in order to create a hole in the side of the building.
One of the wounded officers was trapped inside the attic, and in order to rescue the mortally wounded cop the SWAT team had to battle its way back into the attic under heavy gunfire.
Cops showed up at the home about 7 a.m. today looking to interview a relative of Hydra Lacy, 39, who was wanted for aggravated battery. The relative, believed to be his wife, told officers Lacy was hiding in the attic and was potentially armed.
The cops walked into an ambush. Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz went up into the attic and was quickly shot down. Yaslowitz, the father of three, is a member of the department's canine unit whose shift had ended but had volunteered to help respond to a call for backup at the Lacy home.
An unidentified deputy marshal on his heels was wounded twice in the exchange. The marshal is in stable condition at Bayfront Medical Center, where all three men were taken.
Sgt. Tom Baitinger, 48, a veteran detective, tried to rescue Yaslowitz from the attic. He was wearing a bullet proof vest and holding a ballistic shield in front of him, but Harmon indicated with his hands that the bullet came from above.
For hours, police tried to contact the gunman, unsure if he "was wounded, or laying in wait," said Police Chief Chuck Harmon.
"As soon as we could muster enough folks to safely go back in, we did," said Harmon. "They got Officer Yaslowitz out of the attic. While doing this they were being fired upon."
"I heard 150 to 200 gunshots during the exchange," Harmon said.
Cop Killing Is "Dark Day" for St. Petersburg
Six hours after the initial melee and the last moment of contact with the gunman, a heavily armored SWAT team entered the home and found the gunman dead.
"I heard a bunch of fire exchanged. Then I saw them ram the house with that tank-looking truck and heard shock grenades and more gunfire exchanged. That's when they drug out the first cop, his arms were hanging down and shirt was all bloody," said neighbor Ron Conlin.
At an afternoon press conference Harmon held mementos of the fallen cops – a badge, a gold wedding ring, and two rubber bracelets -- given to him as the men were rushed to the hospital.
"This crook, this criminal, this murderer, this cop killer --whatever you want to call him -- did a terrible injustice," Harmon said. "I feel a lot of anger… I feel remorse for the families… It will take days of healing before we get through this."
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said, "It's a dark day for the city of St. Petersburg," and said the officers and the cops who went into the building to rescue them "showed tremendous bravery."
Today's shooting came as law enforcement officials released date showing that 10 cops have been killed nationwide in the line of duty so far this year, a very bloody start to the year. Last year, 61 officers died in the line of duty.
It was the latest in a rash of shootings of police officers in recent days and the second time that police were shot in Florida while serving arrest warrants.
Two police officers, a man and a woman, were shot and killed last week in Miami, Fla., while serving an arrest warrant on a man wanted for murder.
An officer in Lincoln City, Ore., was critically wounded late Sunday night when he pulled over a car for speeding. A manhunt is underway after a brief highway chase disabled the suspect's car. The driver ran into a wooded area and remains at large.
In Detroit on Sunday, four officers were wounded when a gunman barged into a precinct stationhouse and opened fire. He was shot dead. Police said today that the gunman was a relative of a man who was about to be sentenced in a double homicide.
Three Officers Shot in St. Petersburg
Two more cops were shot and wounded in a Port Orchard, Wash., Walmart parking lot Sunday before a female officer arrived on the scene and killed the shooter.
Also Sunday, an Indianapolis cop was shot and critically wounded when trying to apprehend a robbery suspect with a lengthy rap sheet.