Pinellas Deputy Shoots, Kills St. Petersburg Man
The man pointed an assault rifle at them, say Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies.
ST. PETERSBURG – A Pinellas deputy has been placed on routine, paid administrative leave after he shot and killed a man that, deputies say, pointed an assault rifle at them early this morning (May 7).
Alton F. Witchard, 37, of 7724 13th Ave. S in St. Petersburg, died of his wounds at Bayfront Medical Center, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Another man, Cory L. Williams, 31, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery, fleeing and eluding, and driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
Deputies say that, about 3:10 a.m. members of the auto theft task force were in the area of 22nd Avenue S and 16th Street when they first saw a 1998 Ford Windstar van being driven recklessly at a high rate of speed. Officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office who working together on the task force said they believed the van may have been stolen.
They said they lost sight of the van but later found it near 1400 18th Ave. N and followed the vehicle. A St. Petersburg police officer in a marked cruiser turned on his emergency lights and tried to stop the van for reckless driving near 1414 20th Ave. S. The driver of the van, who deputies say they later identified as Williams, accelerated in reverse and crashed into an unmarked police car. The crash caused minor injury to one of the police officers inside the unmarked car.
The van continued southbound accelerating at a high rate of speed and left the roadway striking the front end of another St. Petersburg police vehicle before accelerating and fleeing west on 20th Avenue S, deputies said. The helicopter from the Sheriff’s Office followed the van as it continued to flee from police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Deputies said they saw the van heading westbound on 22nd Avenue S. They followed the van as it turned north on 22nd Street S then immediately turned west into an alley just south of 21st Avenue S.
The van slowed when it entered the alley and Whitchard, who was a passenger in the van, got out. Deputies said they saw he was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. The van continued west down the alleyway with deputies following. Deputy Yariel Mata followed Whitchard as he ran north on the east side of the residence located at 2220 21st Ave. S. Mata said he yelled commands to Witchard several times to drop the gun. As Witchard continued northbound and rounded the east side of the house through the front yard of the residence, Mata again ordered him to drop the gun. Deputies said Witchard turned with the rifle toward Mata. Mata said he feared for his life and fired his handgun at Witchard approximately five times, striking Witchard twice.
Deputies at the scene performed CPR and rendered first aid to Witchard. Witchard was taken to Bayfront Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Williams was stopped shortly afterwards and arrested at 2247 23rd Ave. S and taken to the Pinellas County Jail.
“The AR-15 rifle was loaded with 17, .223 caliber rounds of ammunition and the switch on the AR-15 was in the fire position” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference. “We are thankful that no law enforcement officers were hurt or killed as a result of Witchard’s actions.”
Mata has been put on routine paid administrative leave as the investigation continues.
To see Gualtieri’s press conference, go to the sheriff’s YouTube page, youtube.com.
Photographs courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff.
Pinellas Sheriff | St. Petersburg | Deputy Shooting | Mata | Witchard | TB Reporter
#PinellasSheriff #StPetersburg #DeputyShooting #Mata #Witchard #TBReporter