ST. PETERSBURG, FL — A St. Pete police-officer involved shooting among two cops and a 23-year-old man who lives with severe mental health conditions that occurred June 26 outside the suspect’s home is under investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Video footage provided by the police body-camera was released Tuesday morning by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office during a news conference. (Video of news conference and shooting provided at the bottom of this article.)
Austin Brodey Kingos, 23, attempted to shoot and kill two St. Petersburg police officers, Saturday, who had probable cause for his arrest due to a severe stalking incident, according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
“This event represents how fast situations escalate and how fast law enforcement officers have to react when someone decides that they want to kill a cop,” Gualtieri told reporters. “It was about 29 seconds from the time that Officer McKenzie exited his cruiser until Kingos shot at the officer. The situation also exemplifies the very significant and dangerous challenges that law enforcement officers face daily in dealing with people with mental illness.”
Austin Kingos, 23, faces multiple charges after he was accused of attempting to murder two St. Pete officers, June 26, following a stalking incident. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)
Kingos lives with bi-polar and schizophrenia, according to his family. He was Baker Acted once in 2018 and, and once in 2019. About three months ago, Kingos stopped taking medication prescribed for his mental conditions, and started smoking marijuana. At the same time, he developed an infatuation for a woman who works at a smoke shop in St. Petersburg, police said. He met up with her a couple of times to smoke marijuana, and expressed a romantic interest in her. She did not reciprocate the same feelings for him. He became insistent on starting a relationship with her, Gualtieri said. He began sending items to her house, and told her wanted to have a baby with her. Furthermore, he also told the woman that he wanted to have her tattooed on his hand.
All of this made the woman highly uncomfortable. She contacted the St. Petersburg Police Department and requested a stalking injunction that was served to Kingos June 15. The injunction prohibited him from having contact with her or possessing any guns. Kingos purchased his gun in March 2020 at a Tampa sporting goods store, according to detectives. Gualtieri explained that just because a person has a mental illness or was Baker Acted doesn’t automatically prohibit them from purchasing a gun. He also said that police agencies don’t have access to a list of every gun owner in the state of Florida, so officers had no way of knowing he already had a gun when he was served the initial injunction.
“It’s one of the things that people often mistake,” Gualtieri said. “It really is just a misperception and a misunderstanding. Somebody being Baker Acted…is merely taking somebody into custody for an involuntary examination. It’s an examination. After that period of examination, people are generally released. And that is not a determination of incapacity, it’s not a commitment for mental health issues.”
The only time that a person is disqualified from a gun purchase, is if a court makes a determination that they are incapacitated due to a mental health issue, Gualtieri explained. He said that the just more than 200,000 people in Florida who are Baker Acted annually are not disqualified from buying a gun just because they had a mental health evaluation.
Between June 19 and June 26, Kingos is accused of violating the injunction several times by contacting her and sending packages to her home. After she received the packages, she contacted St. Pete police, and officers were going to arrest him on a charge of violation of injunction for stalking, according to the sheriff. Authorities spent several days looking for him, and June 26, another package was sent from Kingos to the woman’s home. Inside the package was a breast-milk pump, and an infant’s outfit. On the same day, Officers Ronald McKenzie and Pavel Kuznetsov saw him pulling up in a white work van at about 3:31 p.m. to his home, 10790 Third Street North, off Gandy Boulevard, in St. Pete.
McKenzie parked behind him with his police lights on, and he tried to back out of the apartment complex but couldn’t. The officer got out of his patrol car and walked over to the driver side of the van. He asked Kingos to show his ID. Instead, Kingos started fidgeting around, and this immediately concerned the McKenzie since he couldn’t see his hands. He opened Kingos’ door, and Kingos is accused of repeatedly kicking McKenzie. During this struggle between the two, the suspect took a 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun from the waistband of his shorts, and pointed it at the officer.
This shows Kingos aiming his gun at a St. Pete police officer as he was trying to arrest him on stalking charges. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)
At this time, Kuznetsov, a three-year veteran of SPPD, offered backup to McKenzie, and joined him at the driver side. When he got there, Kuznetsov said Kingos started shooting at him, and he literally heard the bullets whiz by his head, they came that close to hitting him. The bullet missed both officers, and went through a window in a nearby apartment building and struck a door inside an apartment.
Kingos then pointed his gun at both officers and was unable to fire because his gun had a malfunction. The officers were unaware that his gun had jammed, according to investigators, so McKenzie shot several rounds, striking King in the left leg. Following the bullet rounds, Kingos climbed to the passenger side and slid out of the van. As he ran from the van, the officers yelled at him to drop the gun. He dropped the gun and got down on the ground at the intersection of Fourth Street North and 108th Avenue North. He was handcuffed, and the officers provided first-aid until paramedics arrived.
“Kingos bullet barely missed hitting Officer Pavel Kuznetsov,” Gualtieri said. “It also demonstrates that training in each agency matters. These officers actions and reactions show that they are professionals who are well-trained, and work for an agency with good policies and procedures, and that they acted in an exemplary manner to peacefully apprehend and provide medical treatment to Kingos, even after he tried to shoot and kill them. This is how the absolute majority of the 800,00 law enforcement officers in the 18,000 agencies act across this country every day.”
Chief Anthony Holloway of the St. Petersburg Police Department was also in attendance at the news conference. “You saw what happened in that short period of time. We are very happy the officers are going home safely,” Holloway said.
Kingos dropped the 40 caliber semi-automatic weapon at the intersection of 108th Avenue and Fourth Street North. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)
Kingos was released from the hospital, and faces the following charges, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office charge report:
- Attempted murder of a police officer
- Violation of injunction for protection against repeat violations
- Violation of injunction against stalking
- Battery on a law enforcement officer
- Attempted murder of a police officer
- Possession of firearm during felony
- Resisting officer without violence
Officer Ronald McKenzie, a six-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department, who fired the shot, was placed on administrative leave. This is standard under St. Petersburg Police Department policy. Officer Kuznetsov has returned to work.
*During the summer of 2020, the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Taskforce was created to ensure the investigations conducted into law enforcement use of deadly force are thorough, complete, and objective. The purpose of this taskforce is to make sure that officer-involved shootings in Pinellas County are investigated by an independent agency and not by the agency involved in the use of deadly force.
Video provided by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office: