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Tarpon Springs Police Shooting Of 17 Year Old With Airsoft Rifle Ruled Justified

Tarpon Springs, FL – The Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney’s Office announced on Monday that the Tarpon Springs police officers who fatally shot a teenager pointing an airsoft rifle on a downtown street corner were justified in their use of lethal force.

The shooting occurred just after 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 at intersection of Pinellas and Tarpon Avenues in front of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Officers responded to the scene in response to reports of a man standing on the corner pointing a rifle at passersby.

Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said in his letter announcing the decision not to charge the officers that 17-year-old Alexander King pointed his rifle at the first responding officer, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The officer took cover and called for backup, alerting arriving officers to what was happening at the scene.

Bartlett wrote that was when the officer heard King yelling “Shoot me! Shoot me!” at him, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The officer repeatedly told King to drop his weapon, as more officers arrived on the scene.

The prosecutor said that King pointed his gun at some of the responding officers and, believing their lives were in danger, they opened fire on him, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Bartlett said King was shot four times.

He was transported to Bayfront Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

It turned out that his weapon was an airsoft rifle.

The narrative in the state’s attorney’s letter was corroborated by a cellphone video filmed by a witness, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

He said the cellphone video showed King pulling the charging handle as if the rifle were a real firearm.

Bartlett’s letter said the airsoft gun appeared to be a real rifle, except for a “faded orange tip” that officers could not have seen at the distance from which they took cover from the threat, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

He said the names of the officers who shot King have been withheld under Florida’s Marsy’s Law.

The prosecutor’s letter said that King had been involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation at least seven times, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

He was expelled from Tarpon Springs High School in 2019 based on the findings of a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s threat assessment after he was involved in multiple physical altercations with students, teachers, and school resource officers.

An incident report said that King had been seen drawing pictures of knives, guns, German soldiers, and swastikas, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

King told investigators that he liked making other students uncomfortable, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Officials said King had been in counseling and was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, depression, and eventually, bipolar disorder.

He had a run in with Tarpon Springs police after his expulsion when his mother called and reported that he had armed himself with four knives and run away from home, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

When police caught up with King, he was armed with two knives and ignored officers’ orders to drop them.

An officer deployed a pepper-ball launcher and then officers were able to take the teen into custody, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

King was charged with two counts of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer.

He was later involuntarily committed, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Kelly Greenwald, King’s sister, said in a Facebook post that on the night he was killed, her brother had left the house with the airsoft rifle after threatening to kill himself.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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