PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A deadly officer-involved shooting that occurred last week was justified, according to a newly released ruling from the State Attorney’s Office (SAO).
On March 12, deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched around 6:52 p.m. for reports of a vehicle burglary in the 6300 block of 60th Avenue North.
Police stated that a witness noticed the car burglary suspect, Zion Bostick, 23, and went to confront him, taking a video of the suspect before police arrived. The suspect then fled on foot northbound and was spotted by police at 62nd Avenue before he took off once again – this time running southbound.
According to police, the K-9 handler Matthew Aitken, 40, and Sergeant Jacob Viano, 49, jumped several fences chasing the suspect. They spotted the suspect near a church at 6300 62nd Avenue North before they ended up in a backyard on 60th Avenue when the K-9 picked up on something.
According to St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, Bostick was waiting for them and jumped out, firing several shots at the K-9 and its deputy handler.
“The suspect was waiting for them,” Holloway said. “As the handler and the K-9 cleared the building, that’s when the suspect shot at the deputy, striking him several times. Then he turns his gun towards the sergeant, shot several times at the sergeant. The sergeant returned fire. At this point, I can tell you, the suspect is deceased.”
Sgt. Viano was not hit during the gunfire. Witnesses heard the scene unfold.
“All of a sudden we heard eight or nine gunshots,” said Mark Burke. “Then all of a sudden the cops where flying everywhere, they were coming from everywhere.”
According to police, Aitken was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where he has since been released. The K-9 was not hurt during the shooting.
Sgt. Viano was also not hurt and remained on the scene. He was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation. The Pinellas County Use Of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force is looking into the shooting.
On March 22, 2023, State Attorney Bruce Bartlett concluded the investigation in a letter to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri saying:
I have determined that K-9 Deputy Matthew Aitken and Sergeant Jacob Viano were in the lawful performance of their legal duties when they pursued Zion Bostick for the felony charge of Burglary to a Conveyance when they confronted Bostick at the rear of the residence at 6385 60th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, and commanded Bostick to raise his hands. When Bostick responded by shooting Deputy Aitken three times and shooting at Sergeant Viano three times, Sergeant Viano was justified in utilizing deadly force to kill Bostick who was engaged in the forcible felony of Attempted Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer. Therefore, it is the conclusion of the Office of the State Attorney that the death of Zion Bostick was justifiable homicide pursuant to F.S. 776.05(1), F.S. 776.012 and F.S. 776.032.State Attorney Bruce Bartlett