ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) —A Pinellas County deputy is continuing to recover after he was shot by a suspect Sunday evening, according to authorities.
The St. Petersburg Police Department said at about 6:52 p.m., deputies responded to a reported vehicle burglary in the area of 60 Avenue North.
They then spotted the suspect, 23-year-old Zion Bostick, at a church on 62nd Avenue North before he fled through the woods behind the building, according to police.
Authorities said Sgt. Jacob Viano, 49; K9 Corporal Matthew Aitken, 40; and his K9 “Taco” tracked the suspect into a neighborhood.
Authorities said Aitken spotted Bostick trying to hide behind a house and tried to issue orders to the suspect. It was at this point that Bostick fired his gun at Aitken, who was shot three times, according to Chief Anthony Holloway.
“These two deputies were ambushed,” Holloway said Monday.
Police said Bostick then turned his gun on Viano, who saw Aitken get shot. However, he was able to duck out of the suspect’s gunfire and fire back, killing Bostick at the scene.
“If Viano hadn’t run with [Aitken], he wouldn’t be here today because Viano was able to kill this guy before he had the chance to fire additional rounds,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
A witness said officers arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting.
“All of a sudden we heard eight or nine gunshots,” Mark Burke said. “Then all of a sudden the cops were flying everywhere, they were coming from everywhere.”
Aitken was taken to Bayfront Health where his condition is said to be improving as of Monday morning. Viano was not injured and is on administrative leave pending an investigation into the situation.
Further investigation found that aside from the gun Bostick used to shoot Aitken, Bostick also had a handgun in his right pocket that was reported stolen out of Manatee County.
Authorities said Bostick had “an extensive criminal history” and had served two state prison sentences already, his first happening when he was a youthful offfender at 17 years old.
Holloway said the suspect had skipped court last week, had three warrants out for his arrest, and faced a minimum of five years in prison for a guilty plea as a repeat offender.
“He told his mom he would not go back to prison,” the chief said.
“In lieu of not committing more crime and being accountable for his crime, … he decided he was going to try to kill a deputy sheriff, two deputy sheriffs,” Gualtierri said.
According to the sheriff, there is body cam video, but St. Petersburg police will not release it due to the active nature of the investigation. However, Gualtieri said his agency will release it at a later date once the investigation is finished.