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Colleagues, family mourn slain St. Pete officer

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:57 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Dave Crawford was a "champion for domestic violence victims," speaking at schools about the issue and earning recognition for his work.

"When he put together a domestic violence case, it was a solid case," St. Petersburg police Detective Eric Holmes said. "It was something that he was passionate about. We all get here and we all find our own little niche."

Crawford, 46, a Largo native and graduate of Seminole High School, spent much of his career with the department working the midnight shift. He was assigned to District 2 on the city's north side.

It was there Monday night that the 25-year veteran was shot while responding to a report of a suspicious person.

A day after his death, colleagues, family and friends remembered Crawford as a conscientious officer who put the public at ease. A father and stepfather who, despite his bad knees, loved to play catcher on his softball team.

"You had to earn his respect," Holmes said. "And once you had it, he was a friend for life."

Linda Osmundson, executive director of Community Action Stops Abuse, or CASA, a St. Petersburg-based domestic violence organization, said Crawford was a thorough investigator.

She said he followed up with domestic violence victims after making arrests, making cases more likely to result in successful prosecutions.

"He was a very fine man," said Crawford's father-in-law, 83-year-old Dale Willey of Tennessee. "He would help anybody."

Crawford also worked off-duty security at Tampa Bay Rays home games.

"We mourn the loss of a respected hero and a dedicated member of our Tropicana Field family," the team said in a statement. "Our fans, our employees and our players will all miss him."

Jeff Ziegler, the Rays traveling secretary and a retired St. Petersburg police officer, said Crawford was no-nonsense, with a dry sense of humor.

"Just a conscientious guy who showed up every day to do a job not many people want to do," Ziegler said.

Ned Nather owns a bar and liquor store in the neighborhood Crawford patrolled.

"I knew him for years," Nather said. "He was very friendly and very helpful."

Crawford loved bowling and once won $5,000 on the lanes, said his former father-in-law, John "Jack" Phillips of High Springs. He also enjoyed riding motorcycles and horses.

"In all the years I knew him, he never once raised his voice to me," Phillips said.

Police Chief Chuck Harmon said Crawford had a knack for talking to people. He also was the first to suggest the department start a mounted patrol unit.

"About two months later, he had gotten hurt on a horse and he said, 'Scratch that idea,'" Harmon said.

Crawford commuted the roughly 85 miles from Crystal River, where he lived with his wife, Donna. He had a grown daughter and stepdaughter.

"He was a very sweet and very sincere guy," neighbor Erica McKethan told the Citrus County Chronicle. "He would always wave to us and was very friendly."

McKethan said police officers came to her home at 1 a.m. Tuesday looking for Donna Crawford.

"This is really, really sad," she said.

After graduating from Seminole High in 1982, Crawford attended Johnson Bible School in Knoxville, Tenn., until 1983. He began his career with the police department in July 1985.

Crawford's personnel file includes a November 2009 commendation for his quick thinking in catching armed suspects. He used blinding lights to help make the suspects think there was more than one officer on scene.

"Good job, Dave," Harmon wrote on the memo. "Well done."

In September 1999, Crawford also was complimented by a resident who said the officer took a personal interest in a case, helping arrest a suspect she feared wouldn't be caught.

"It just feels good and keeps your faith when law enforcement officers take a personal interest in your case and help ease your stress and worry," Dawn Oliver wrote. "That is public service, and it needs to be recognized."


Researcher Buddy Jaudon and reporters Howard Altman, Roger Mooney, Rob Shaw and Stephen Thompson contributed to this report.

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