A Florida man with a significant history of mental illness is facing charges after he reportedly fired on St. Petersburg police officers on Saturday.
During the incident, the suspect’s bullets nearly struck one officer in the head before the gun jammed, effectively preventing him from firing off any more rounds.
What are the details?
The incident unfolded on Saturday when Officer Ronald McKenzie and Officer Pavel Kuznetsov were attempting to locate a suspect on a warrant for violation of an injunction for stalking.
They came upon the suspect, identified as 23-year-old Austin Kingos, who was sitting in a white van.
McKenzie approached Kingos and asked for identification, but Kingos did not comply and instead began “fidgeting around.”
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri during a Tuesday press conference detailed the chilling moments that followed.
“Officer McKenzie was concerned because of the movements and he couldn’t see Kingos’ hands,” he recalled. “He opened the driver’s side of the door, at which time Kingos turned and began to actively kick and resist Officer McKenzie.”
Soon after, Kingos reportedly pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and began firing on the officers as he exited the vehicle and tried to flee on foot.
“Kingos fired a round and as described by Officer Kuznetsov, ‘It literally whizzed by his head,'” Gualtieri added. “He said he could hear the round whiz by his head. It was that close.”
Gualtieri said that if Kuznetsov’s head had been tilted “slightly to the left” or if he’d taken one more step, he would have been shot in the head.
Authorities say that Kingos’ weapon then jammed, and McKenzie took the opportunity to neutralize the suspect until he could be taken into custody.
Kingos was struck in the leg and transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. He is expected to recover.
“[If not for that] gun jamming, he would have fired several more rounds, and we of course don’t know what that outcome would have been,” Gualtieri noted. “It may not have been good.”
A mere 29 seconds reportedly elapsed between the time that the officers exited their cruisers and Kingos reportedly began shooting, authorities noted.
History of mental illness
According to WTVT-TV, Kingos suffers from extensive mental health issues.
“This event exemplifies several things, including how fast situations escalate, and how fast law enforcement officers have to react when someone decides that they want to kill a cop,” Gualtieri said. “It was about 29 seconds from the time that Officer McKenzie exited his cruiser until Kingos fired his gun at the officers.”
“The situation also exemplifies,” he continued, “the very significant and dangerous challenges that law enforcement officers face daily when dealing with people with mental illness.”
“This is a case where the intersection of guns, drugs, and a person with mental health issues led to a very bad result,” Gualtieri added. “We could have very well be talking about a line of duty death of an officer. I hope he gets treatment and I hope he gets to where he needs to be but he almost killed two cops in this county and he needs to be held accountable.”
Kingos — who was reportedly institutionalized under the Baker Act in 2018 and 2019 — faces charges of one count of violation of injunction for protection and two counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
press release states that he will be transported to the Pinellas County Jail once treated for his injuries.