ST. PETERSBURG - More than 10,000 mourners, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott and police officers from across the nation, are expected to attend funeral services Friday at 11 a.m. for two St. Petersburg police officers shot to death this week.
A three-hour funeral at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, with full police honors, is planned for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger, 48, and K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39, both veteran officers of the city's police force.
Both men were shot to death in a south St. Petersburg home on Jan. 24 by a lone gunman. Hydra Lacy Jr., the alleged shooter, was hiding in an attic when police arrived to question a relative at the house. Lacy, who was wanted on an outstanding criminal warrant, was found dead in the home hours after the shooting.
A U.S. Deputy Marshal, Scott Ley, also was injured in the gun battle and remains hospitalized at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
The deaths have shocked the city and its 550-member police force. Bleachers and giant TV screens have been set up to handle the overflow crowd expected at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. The funeral service will be carried live by local TV stations, the city's public access cable channel and a church webcast.
The last time a police officer was killed in the line of duty in St. Petersburg was 30 years ago. The shootings marked a bloody 24 hours for U.S. police officers.
The slain St. Petersburg officers were among a dozen police shot in the line of duty in five states over a 24-hour period between Jan. 23 and 24.
- In Oregon a police officer was critically wounded Sunday night during a traffic stop.
- An Indianapolis police officer died Wednesday after being shot four times on Sunday night.
- In Washington, two sheriff’s deputies were shot Sunday after responding to a report of a suspicious person outside a retail store.
- In the most brazen incident, a gunman entered a Detroit police precinct late Sunday afternoon and started shooting, wounding four officers including a commander.
- Meanwhile, two Miami detectives were fatally shot last week in a similar incident to the St. Petersburg shootings.
In addition to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, other political leaders attending Friday's funeral include U.S. Rep CW "Bill" Young, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, as well as city and Pinellas County officials. Police agencies from as far away as Chicago and Rhode Island also have sent representatives.
Other Florida communities are sending officials to pay their respects:
- Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor plans to attend, as well as several city and Hillsborough County leaders.
- Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, City Commissioner Curtis Holmes and Largo Police Chief John Carroll will go to the funeral, and Largo police will assist with St. Petersburg's service calls while its officers are at the memorial service.
- A contingent of Sarasota County deputies and Sarasota police officers will be attending the funerals. Both the Sheriff's Office and Police Department have been flying flags at half mast this week. They have also been wearing a black mourning band across their badges to honor the fallen officers.
The departments will wear them until the conclusion of the funeral. Sarasota Police Chief Mike Hollaway gave the authorization for that on Monday, as soon as he heard the news of the shooting. Capt. Paul Sutton of the Sarasota Police Department said the entire K9 unit will be in attendance as well as the Honor Guard.