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Police: Officer opened fire to defend himself

St. Petersburg, Florida -- St. Petersburg police say an officer opened fire and killed a man to defend himself after the two rolled down a hill, fighting over a gun.

At around 1:40 Monday morning, an officer spotted a car in a closed park next to the Jungle Prada Boat Ramp west of Tyrone Square Mall.

Two other officers came to back him up, and the three officers followed a nearby trail down to the waterfront along the edge of Boca Ciega Bay.

They found two men at the end of the trail, sitting on a bench, surrounded by beer cans, St. Pete police spokesman Bill Proffitt said.

The officers said they were going to pat down the men to check for weapons. 

"If an officer feels threatened in any way, he has any kind of suspicion that the man might be armed, he's allowed by law to do a general pat-down, which is basically feeling the outside of the clothing," Proffitt said.

Proffitt said one of the men was cooperative, but the other -- 18-year old Jared Speakman -- was not.

Speakman had a small dog in his lap and turned to hand that dog to his friend, according to a news release from St. Pete Police.

One of the officers, Ofc. Ruben DeJesus, spotted the handle of a handgun in Speakman's waistband or right front pocket.

DeJesus yelled out to warn the other officers of the gun, then reached out to grab the .22 caliber revolver, the news release said.

The two men struggled, then rolled a few feet down a grassy embankment behind the bench.

According to the release, Ofc. DeJesus lost his grip on the gun, but Speakman still had a hand on it. At that point, DeJesus drew his own gun and fired several shots at Speakman.

Speakman died at the scene.

The officers were not hurt.

Speakman's uncle, Mark Johnston, came out to the park after sunrise Monday to look at the spot where his nephew was killed.

Johnston said Speakman would often hang out with his friends around the water late at night. But he said he had never known his nephew to carry a gun.

"We don't even know where he got a gun," Johnston said.

"He's only 18, his uncle is a sheriff's officer, or was a sheriff's officer. He knows better than to carry a gun around, to fight with police or anything."

"That's not Jared. That's not the way he was."

Speakman dropped out of Boca Ciega High School last year and was working on his GED, Johnston said.

Proffitt said the three officers were interviewed at St. Petersburg Police headquarters well into the morning, along with the cooperative man from the scene.

DeJesus is on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure for any officer who fires a weapon at a suspect. He is a 25-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department.


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