Armed with a .45-caliber semi-automatic gun, Jason Kerr fired from inside a Dodge minivan on a group of St. Petersburg police officers Thursday night, and the officers returned fire, killing the 31-year-old ex-convict from Pinellas Park.
But, according to his estranged girlfriend, Kerr only wanted to hurt himself.
“He just wanted to die himself,” said Andrea Byrd, 30, of Pinellas Park.
In July, Kerr was arrested and accused of assaulting Byrd at the home they shared in Pinellas Park. Though a charge of domestic battery was dropped last month, Kerr was told in the interim to stay away from Byrd, his girlfriend of nine years, with whom he had two children.
“He was sad, he was depressed, because he left us,” Byrd said. “He didn’t think he had a place with us.”
Late Thursday night, police received a call about 11:10 p.m. about a man with a gun at Hungry Baba’s, 1811 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S.
Employees told police the man appeared “nervous” and was sweating so profusely they had given him a towel to wipe himself. As the man left the restaurant, he waved a gun and talked to other people in the parking lot, police said.
When officers arrived at the restaurant at 11:12 p.m., Kerr was in a white Dodge Caravan and driving onto 18th Avenue South. Officers followed in marked cruisers with their lights on and tried to pull him over.
Kerr drove into the parking lot of Snax Convenience Store, 1755 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S. He parked the Caravan “somewhat perpendicular” to the officers’ cruisers and then fired, with three bullets hitting two cruisers, police said.
Officers returned fire and hit Kerr, who died before he could be taken to a hospital, police said.
No officers were injured in the shooting.
Investigators said they found Kerr’s firearm inside the Caravan, along with cocaine, drug paraphernalia and pills. Kerr also had cocaine on him, according to police.
Kerr, whose last known address was 5980 102nd Ave., the home he once shared with Byrd and their children, has several prior arrests in Pinellas County, including drug charges, fleeing and eluding law enforcement and criminal mischief, according to jail records.
In 2000, he was convicted of home invasion robbery, according to the state Department of Corrections. Two years later, he was sentenced to more than a year in prison for drug possession. In 2008, Kerr was sentenced to 3½ years in prison for drug trafficking and possession and fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer. He was released from prison in July 2010.
On July 30, Pinellas Park police were called to Kerr and Byrd’s home after dispatchers received a 911 hang-up call, according to a Pinellas Park police report. Kerr touched her inappropriately during an argument over body wash and then pushed her, the report states.
The officers involved in the shooting were six-year veterans Matthew Laliberte, 28; Scott Kirpan, 31; and Michael Stringfellow, 27; and Mark Kruzell, 30, who has been with the department since December, a police spokesman said.
The officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. That is standard procedure in a fatal shooting, the spokesman said.