A St. Petersburg, Fla., police officer narrowly avoided getting shot in the head during a traffic stop in a dramatic incident caught on dashcam and bodycam video.
“Officer [Pavel] Kuznetsov literally heard the round whiz by the side of his head…If Officer Kuznetsov’s head had been tilted slightly to the left, or he had taken one more step before he stopped, there’s no doubt that he would have been shot in the head,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference on Tuesday. He was joined at the presser by St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.
The sheriff added that if not for the suspect’s gun jamming, the outcome could have been far worse for the responding cops.
The encounter on Saturday afternoon, June 26, started when Officer Ronald McKenzie, who was first on the scene, made contact with a suspect in a white van outside his residence who was allegedly wanted on a misdemeanor charge for violating a stalking injunction.
The suspect began struggling with McKenzie, and according to the authorities, he pulled out a 40 caliber, semi-automatic handgun, and fired one round.
McKenzie discharged his service weapon several times at the suspect, who was taken into custody after a brief foot chase.
The suspect, identified by multiple media outlets as Austin Kingos, 23, suffered a bullet wound to the leg and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital. The officers rendered first aid at the scene until EMTs arrive. Neither of the officers were injured.
In addition to violating an injunction, Kingos faces two counts of attempted murder on a law enforcement officer. Additional charges include battery on a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm in commission of an alleged felony, and resisting an officer with violence.
The officers involved are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure, pending a probe by the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force. The suspect is reportedly being held in the Pinellas County Jail without bail.
“Family members told detectives that Kingos has ‘severe mental health issues,’ and allegedly had stopped taking his meds recently,” Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported.
In that context, Sheriff Gualtieri underscored that this incident demonstrated the dangers that officers often face when interacting with members of the public who might suffer from mental challenges.
According to the sheriff, Kingos allegedly became infatuated with a woman he met at a store that sells smoking supplies. The subsequent alleged unwanted attention that occurred prompted the woman to obtain a no-contact stalking injunction earlier this month. Alleged violations of the injunction gave cops probable cause to arrest him.
Watch Sheriff Gualtieri’s press conference embedded below in which he provides detailed background on the case along with the dashcam and bodycam footage.
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