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Police: Teen confesses to fatal shooting of St. Petersburg officer

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Suspect remorseful over killing cop
  • NEW: Mayor: The loss of 3 officers in one month is "devastating" for the city
  • Two others were killed in a January 24 gunfight
  • Police say the suspect bought the gun for $140 on the street
  • The teen confesses to the crime and cries during the interrogation, police say

(CNN) -- A 16-year-old Florida boy faces a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of a police officer in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The death of Officer David Crawford represented the third time in less than a month that a law-enforcement officer was killed in the city.

Police said they have charged Nicholas L. Lindsey, a student in the Pinellas County school system.

"He was very remorseful," St. Petersburg police Maj. Mike Kovacsev told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "He did provide a full admission."

Lindsey has been charged as juvenile for Crawford's murder, police said Wednesday. However, the teen could be tried as an adult because of his age and the seriousness of the charge, but the state attorney general will make that decision, a judge told the boy.

Teen arrested in police shooting death

Although the suspect is a juvenile, authorities in St. Petersburg publicly identified him by name, discussed his background, released his booking photograph and made no effort to shield him or his family from local media.

The boys' parents delivered their son to police at Tuesday evening. The boy was interviewed by detectives and confessed to the crime, police said.

Police were still trying to recover the gun that the suspect used. Lindsey told investigators he had dumped the gun in a creek near a school and tried to hide it so that no one would ever find it. Police said Lindsey's gun was a $140 street purchase.

Officials said three tips led them to the suspect.

The teen offered several different accounts of events, but after several rounds of interrogation, he admitted information that conformed with evidence that police had gathered, said St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon, who added that Lindsey has prior arrests, mostly for property crimes,

Kovacsev said Lindsey's parents were "very instrumental in the interview process and they encouraged him to do what was right. They were very cooperative and at no point did they inhibit our investigation."

At one point during the interview the boy, "did break down and cry," Kovacsev said.

Police said they do not think anyone else was involved in the shooting.

"You don't expect this type of confrontation between a 16-year-old and a police officer like this," Harmon said. "I feel for the juvenile's family but at the same time he's got to be accountable for his actions."

The arrest comes after hundreds of police officers scoured neighborhoods in St. Petersburg for the killer of Crawford, a veteran police officer.

The shooting occurred Monday night when Crawford had been summoned to investigate a suspicious person who was reportedly toting a brick in a resident's backyard, according to police.

A gunfight erupted moments after Crawford stepped out of his cruiser. When it was over Crawford, 46, had been fatally shot multiple times at close range.

According to Kovacsev, Lindsey opened fire on Crawford as the officer reached for note pad in his shirt pocket. Crawford, who was struck as many as four times, returned fire, shooting six rounds at Lindsey, all of which missed the suspect.

Crawford was not wearing a bulletproof vest, police said.

Crawford was described as a family man who loved horses and had a knack for talking with people. He spend most of his time working the midnight shift and loved it, Harmon said.

"He was an honorable man," Harmon said of Crawford, who had a wife and a 24-year-old daughter.

"My thoughts and prayers remain with the family and loved-ones of Officer Crawford during this extremely difficult time," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "I am hopeful that they might find some relief knowing that a suspect has been identified and is behind bars."

Two St. Petersburg officers died and a U.S. marshal was wounded January 24 in a gunfight with a suspect who was hiding in an attic.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster told HLN that the city will do more to teach young people that the consequences of a "bad decision" will last a lifetime.

"No one prepares the city for the devastating losses we've seen this month," Foster said. "We're holding together with a lot of prayer, faith ... and dependence on each other."

HLN's Vinnie Politan contributed to this report.