18 January 1995 |
St. Petersburg, Florida
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Desoto Correctional Institution Annex.|
|Parent(s)||Nicholas Lindsey, Sr., Deneen Sweat|
|Conviction(s)||Murder in the first degree of a LEO|
Classmates described him as quiet and "a typical teen". "He was a good person," said a classmate, "quiet and didn't really talk to no one, only spoke with his friends, people he knew."
Although he attended school on the day of the shooting, he had missed 40 days during the school year. Gibbs High School Former Principal Kevin Gordon spoke with Lindsey about cutting class. The principal and his reading intervention teacher said the teenaged suspect always complied with authority. One teacher, Karen Morse, stated that he was a typical teen who would "strive for that teacher attention to do his best." Off campus, Lindsey appeared to be a different kid. Lindsey's Facebook page showed he had a gang name.
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster recognized Lindsey when he saw the mugshot. He met with the teen inside his home during a 2010 Outreach the Community event. It was after his first arrest of grand theft. Foster said that the teen impressed him the most and had a goal to succeed in life. Foster went on to say he wanted Lindsey tried as an adult.
Murder of Officer David Crawford
On February 21, 2011, officer David Crawford, 46, was responding to a call of a suspicious person near the Tropicana Field late that night. The caller stated that a man was holding a brick in his back yard then jumped the fence. The caller thought he might be a burglar. Officer Crawford arrived to the area and spotted the person then got out of his vehicle. At 10:37 p.m., Donald J. Ziglar, a fellow officer, noticed and reported an exchange of gunfire. Ziglar found Crawford lying near his cruiser, police stated. He was shot multiple times at close range after reaching for a notepad. More than 200 officers from different agencies across Tampa Bay poured into the city to take part in the massive manhunt for the suspect.
On the night of February 22, 2011, the search came to a quick end. After raiding a home, they arrested 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey after receiving tips from the community. Lindsey originally offered different accounts of the events, but eventually admitted information that conformed with the evidence police had already gathered said St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon. Police also stated "he broke down and cried" and that Lindsey threw the gun in a nearby creek. He was booked into the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center.
Lindsey's mother, Deneen Sweat told the St. Petersburg Times she suspected her son may have been involved in the shooting after she heard the description of the suspect. "I told my son, man up and tell what happened." Deneen Sweat told WFTS. Sweat was with her son when he confessed to police.
The shooting garnered multiple emotions from the public. Questions on how a 16-year-old could obtain a gun emerged as well as the need for Nicholas Lindsey to be tried as an adult. Law enforcement took the death exceptionally hard. Crawford was described as a family man who loved horses, people and enjoyed working the night shift. He left behind 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. I am hopeful that they might find some relief knowing that a suspect has been identified and is behind bars.||”|
It added to an already grief-stricken community. Two St. Petersburg officers died and a U.S. marshal was wounded on January 24, 2011 in a gunfight with a Hydra Lacy, the brother of local boxer Jeff Lacy. The shooter in that case was also killed. 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. We're holding together with a lot of prayer, faith ... and dependence on each other.||”|
— St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, 
Crawford was laid to rest in a locally televised ceremony on March 1. About 10,000 people, inside and outside of the church, attended.
Official indictment and trial
On March 7, 2011, Lindsey was indicted by a grand jury on a murder in the first degree charge. He was moved to the Pinellas County Jail where he is housed with other juveniles facing adult charges. Under Florida law juveniles awaiting trial cannot be in sight or sound of the adult population.
Trial was for December 12, 2011 but later moved to March 2012. Convicted of the murder, Lindsey would likely spend the rest of his life in state prison because of Florida's Law Enforcement Protection Act. He cannot be sentenced to death per a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits people from being executed for crimes committed while under 18.
On December 2, 2011, Judge Thane Covert ruled that Lindsey's taped confession will be admissible at trial citing that the manner in which the police officers obtained the confession was credible. Lindsey, with his parents in the interview room, had confessed to police that he killed Mr. Crawford. The defense argued that Lindsey's parents urged their son to confess by suggesting that he may receive leniency if he did. Covert also granted a motion for another trial date as defense attorney Frank McDermott stated that he would not be able to be prepared in such a short amount of time. Trial was removed from the December 12 date and replaced with a pretrial hearing. Covert said he will schedule pretrial hearings every three weeks which is something he typically does when a case of his moves slowly.
On December 12, 2011, Judge Covert set the trial for March 19, 2012.
Jury selection began on March 19, 2012, with testimony beginning the next day. Lindsey's defense team's strategy was to convince the jury that manslaughter took place. They portrayed Lindsey as a scared youth, while prosecutors, including Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, portrayed this as an intentional murder of a law enforcement officer by mentioning the fact that he shot Crawford five times and did not miss a bullet. On March 23, Lindsey was convicted of Crawford's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in state prison.
In October 2013 Lindsey's life sentence was upheld in court after an appeal.
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