Thousands gather for slain St. Petersburg officer’s funeral

ST. PETERSBURG -- Officer David Crawford was a gruff, hardworking man who loved his family, his seven cats and his fellow officers from Squad 22 who worked the midnight shift at the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Funeral services for Crawford, a 46-year-old veteran of the force, were held Tuesday. He was killed Feb. 21 while investigating a report of a suspicious person; a 16-year-old faces charges in the killing.

Thousands of mourners, including police officers from around the nation, flocked to the First Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. It was the same church where two other slain officers -- Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz -- were laid to rest just one month ago.

Gov. Rick Scott and his wife, along with state Attorney General Pam Bondi and city leaders from around the Tampa Bay area were in attendance, along with city leaders from around Tampa Bay.

Three of Crawford’s closest friends spoke at the funeral, describing a no-nonsense man who had a knack for defusing volatile domestic violence situations.

When people first met Crawford, said Officer Thad Crisco, “they saw this grumpy, barnicle-covered exterior. But those of us who really knew Dave knew that’s not how Dave really was.

“Dave was a soft guy inside.”

He once rescued a resident’s beloved family cat who was stuck on the interstate. He loved the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team and often worked overtime at Tropicana Field, always at the right field foul pole. He also spent so much time working so many midnight shifts with Crisco, his partner, that they had a special greeting when they saw each other in the evenings.

“When Dave and I come to work together, our first greeting was, ‘Hi Honey, I’m home.’ “

Crawford leaves behind a wife, an adult daughter, a stepdaughter and two grandchildren.

On Feb. 21, Crawford got a call of a suspicous person near Tropicanna Field. Authorities said he spotted 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey. The officer climbed out of the car, tried to talk to Lindsey -- who was walking away -- and took out his notepad.

It was then, Sgt. Michael Kovascev said, that Lindsey turned and fired at least four shots into Crawford’s torso. Crawford managed to pull his weapon and fire six shots at Lindsey, who wasn’t hit.

After the largest manhunt in city history, authorities said, Lindsey was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder.

He is in a juvenile detention center without bail. Prosecutors will soon decide whether he will be tried as an adult.