LARGO, Fla (WFLA) — A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office corporal spoke for the first time after being shot by a suspect during a shooting in March.
Cpl. Matt Aitken, K9 Taco and Sgt. Jacob Viano were tracking a vehicle burglary suspect off 60th Avenue North in St. Petersburg on March 12 when the shooting happened.
According to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Zion Bostick, 23, ambushed Aitken after the corporal jumped a fence and tracked him into the back yard of a home. The corporal asked Bostick to surrender, but body camera footage shows the suspect refused to follow those instructions.
“Instead of complying with those commands Bostick moved back out of sight concealed by the house and waited with his gun out to ambush and shoot Cpl. Aitken,” said Gualtieri.
Aitken was shot three times, sustaining wounds to his leg, wrist and neck.
A slight delay in Sgt. Viano getting over the fence is a major reason Sheriff Gualtieri believes no deputy died in the incident.
“It put just enough distance between Cpl. Aitken and Sgt. Viano that when Bostwick shot Cpl. Aitken, then fired on Sgt. Viano, Sgt. Viano had enough reaction time to hit the ground, get up and allow enough time for K-9 Taco to bite Bostick and then shoot and kill Bostick,” Gualtieri said.
Sgt. Viano wasn’t injured when Bostick fired shots toward him.
“Once I was able to unholster, he had his opportunity, and it was going to be our turn,” Viano recalled.
Cpl. Aitken says he believes the story would be different if K9 Taco hadn’t attacked the suspect.
“I would not be here and I would argue that Sgt. Viano would not be here,” Aitken said. “Taco doing his job gave Jake the opportunity to put rounds on target.”
The corporal remains on the road to recovery but says he looks forward to working with K9 Taco again within the next six months.
“I’m very grateful to be here, all three of my injuries between the leg, wrist, and neck, all three missed anything vital it’s nothing short of amazing that I’m still here,” Aitken shared.