St. Petersburg, FL – A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) sergeant and a St. Petersburg police K9 were shot in the line of duty by a fleeing suspect early on Friday morning.
The incident began at 1:50 a.m. on March 29, when a PCSO deputy assigned to the Joint Violent Crimes Task Force stopped a vehicle near the intersection of 26th Street South and Third Avenue South, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The driver, 23-year-old convicted felon Elijah Johnson, sped away when the deputy asked him for his identification, according to WTSP.
A short while later, St. Petersburg Police Officer Greg Shone and his partner, K9 Titan, located Johnson’s abandoned vehicle approximately a block away from the scene of the traffic stop, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The leashed K9 began tracking the suspect, but then Johnson opened fire on the advancing police dog and managed to escape yet again, WFLA reported.
Officer Shone was not hit by the gunfire.
K9 Titan was wounded in the attack, and was immediately rushed to an animal hospital, where he underwent surgery.
A short while later, Johnson opened fire on 51-year-old PCSO Sergeant David Stang through the passenger side of a patrol vehicle near 27th Street South and Third Avenue South, WFLA reported.
The unsuspecting sergeant never even had the opportunity to reach for his weapon or call for help over the radio, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times.
"Whether the bad guy charged the car and shot or whether he shot at a distance, that’s something the investigation will have to reveal,” Sheriff Gualtieri explained. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was an ambush, but it was that type of a situation. It appears he was caught by surprise."
The 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s department managed to accelerate his patrol vehicle away from the scene of the shooting, to a location where emergency medical personnel were able to reach him, WFLA reported.
He suffered at least two gunshot wounds to his shoulder, and was rushed to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.
“He lost a considerable amount of blood,” Sheriff Gualtieri said.
Officers found Johnson dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound about a block away from where he shot Sgt. Stang, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“These are always the calls you dread,” Sheriff Gualtieri said. “Thank goodness Sgt. Stang is alive and it looks like he’s going to be okay.”
K9 Titan suffered a gunshot wound to the leg, was listed in stable condition following surgery.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing, but police said that none of the deputies or officers involved in the encounter fired their weapons.
Johnson has an extensive criminal history, and was recently released from prison, WFLA reported.
According to Pinellas County Jail records, he has at least eight prior arrests for weapons and drug offenses, and had only been out of jail since Feb. 9, the Tampa Bay Times reported.