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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014

Lindsey again sentenced to life in St. Pete officer’s slaying

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Published:   |   Updated: October 11, 2013 at 09:50 PM

CLEARWATER —Nicholas Lindsey was raised in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood in South St. Petersburg, in a home where his parents eventually split. He wasn’t the brightest boy or the best student, and he was often bullied.

But none of that — nor the impulsive nature often attributed to those of his age — accounts for the methodical way in which the then-16-year-old pumped six bullets into a St. Petersburg police officer two years ago who was armed with nothing but a note pad.

That was the rationale spelled out by Pinellas Circuit Judge Thane Covert today, as he sentenced Lindsey to life in prison without the possibility of parole, much as the judge did last year.

Covert first sentenced Lindsey, now 18, on March 23, 2012, after a jury convicted Lindsey of first-degree murder. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, so a life sentence was the only other option under Florida law.

But Covert agreed to resentence the teen because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making it unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile to life in prison without possibility of parole without first having a hearing.

Lindsey, who shot Officer David Crawford on Feb. 21, 2011, did not receive such a hearing because Florida law did not require that when he was sentenced last year.

One was held last month, with prosecutors arguing for life in prison and Lindsey’s defense attorneys arguing for parole after 25 years because of his background and youth. Covert’s sentencing Friday was in response to the testimony heard at that hearing.

“The court concludes that the deliberate, senseless and callous nature of this murder, along with defendant’s extreme behavior overwhelmingly outweigh any extenuating effects of youthful characteristics seen in the defendant,” Covert said today, reading from a prepared 27-page order.

“With the sentence the court imposes today, the defendant will never have freedom again and will die in prison.”

“Over and done with,” Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe told St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon as they left the courtroom.

“Good job,” Harmon said to McCabe.

Lindsey, who was wearing head phones because of a hearing impairment, looked at the ceiling and scratched his neck after Covert handed down the sentence.

On that night in 2011, Lindsey had broken into a car at a hotel when police were summoned.

Crawford spotted him, pulled up in his squad car, got out holding a note pad and motioned for Lindsey to come toward him. Instead, Lindsey took a half-step toward him, pulled a gun from about 20 feet away and fired six times; all six shots hit Crawford.

Lindsey ran, leaving his flip flops behind him. He also ditched his hoodie and gun.

By the next day, he had been identified as the shooter. When interviewed, Lindsey first denied shooting Crawford, then tried implicating someone else, whom he mentioned by name, and then said that when he pulled his own gun, Crawford had pulled his, too.

He also led investigators on a wild goose chase as to the location of the gun before telling them he wasn’t going to say where it was.

Covert made note of those details when announcing his decision.

“The defendant’s choice to arm himself while he went out to steal a car is telling,” Covert said. “That he carried a loaded gun with him to undertake a property crime indicates that the defendant was prepared to use this weapon against anyone who stood to prevent his crime or escape.

“He ... admitted that he shot at Officer Crawford until his gun was empty — he did not shoot once and then run away,” Covert said. “These statements show that the defendant exhibited reflection and deliberation, even if briefly, and recognized and recounted that he did so.

“After the shooting, he ran home immediately, in the process discarding the murder weapon and an identifying article of clothing. He thus disposed of the most telling physical evidence that linked his identity to the murder,” Covert said. “This course of events shows a sophistication and awareness that is greater than that of many juveniles.”

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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