By Michaela Mulligan, Natalie Weber
Tampa Bay Times
PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Zion Bostick told his mother he wasn’t going back to prison.
Bostick, 23, skipped a court date last week for two separate criminal cases and faced a possible state prison sentence. He had already served two terms in prison, the first when he was 17.
On Sunday — exactly one year since he was released from prison the second time — he shot and wounded a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputy and then was fatally shot by another deputy, authorities said.
The K-9 deputy, 40-year-old Cpl. Matthew Aitken, was hospitalized and was listed in stable condition on Monday, police said.
The Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Task Force is investigating the shooting, which happened just before 1 p.m.
A witness noticed a man, later identified as Bostick, trying to get into several vehicles, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway during a press conference on Sunday. The witness confronted Bostick and began videotaping him. Bostick ran from the scene, Holloway said.
Aitken saw Bostick at a nearby church. When Aitken approached Bostick, he fled. Aitken, his dog, Taco, and Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jacob Viano, 49, tracked Bostick south into a fenced backyard.
“In the backyard tracking the K-9, as they go by the building, the suspect comes out, he shoots at the K-9 handler and hits him multiple times,” Holloway said. “Then he turns his gun on the sergeant.”
At another news conference held Monday, Holloway said Bostick shot Aitken three times with a 9 mm handgun, the shots striking him in the neck, hand and leg.
Holloway said Bostick then fired at Viano three times, and the sergeant returned fire. Bostick was hit at least once and died, Holloway said.
Neither the dog nor Viano was injured.
Investigators found a .380 handgun in Bostick’s front right pocket, Holloway said. The chief said the gun had been stolen from an unlocked car in 2018. There was also more ammunition in a backpack Bostick was carrying, Holloway said.
Viano is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the task force investigation.
Viano and Aitken have been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2000 and 2006, respectively.
Under the guidelines of the task force’s partnership agreement, the Clearwater and St. Petersburg use of force involving Pinellas County deputies, with Clearwater police investigating those occurring north of Ulmerton and Walsingham roads and St. Petersburg police. handling incidents that happen south of it.
Holloway said Bostick had multiple warrants out for his arrest after missing a court date last week. He faces a possible five-year prison sentence, the chief said.
Pinellas court records show Bostick was scheduled to appear in court March 7 on charges stemming from two separate arrests in 2022.
In August, Bostick was arrested in Largo on charges of burglary and attempted burglary and posted bail. About five weeks later, he was arrested in St. Petersburg charged with fleeing law enforcement at a high rate of speed, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended or suspended license. He again posted bail, records show.
At this afternoon’s news conference, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Bostick had been arrested 18 times — 34 on felony charges and 22 on misdemeanor charges.
Records show Bostick was last released on March 12, 2022, after serving about 16 months on drug-related charges.
St. Petersburg police are not releasing body camera footage of the shooting while it is under investigation. Gualtieri said he agreed with the Police Department’s decision not to release the footage pending the investigation, but that it will eventually be released.
Gualtieri said Aitken is one of the agency’s more experienced deputies and has worked with canines for about 12 years. Aitken has been a corporal since 2018 and is married with a young daughter, the sheriff said.
“Because of his experience and his grit, (Aitken) survived this,” Gualtieri said.
Aitken underwent surgery Monday morning and is expected to survive, the sheriff said.
“He still has a lot of medical issues, a lot of things to take care of,” Gualtieri said.
Viano was working just north of the scene and came to help Aitken when the corporal ran with the dog, Gualtieri told reporters.
“I’m very thankful that Sgt. Viano was able to do that because, in my opinion, the outcome would undoubtedly have been different if Sgt. Viano had not been there,” Gualtieri said.
“It was on the verge of being different,” he later added. “We’d be talking about a dead substitute if things had changed a bit.”
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