ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — UPDATE: The St. Pete police officer who was shot was released from the hospital Thursday night.
Previous story below:
The man who died after a shootout with St. Pete police on Wednesday was also a person of interest in a homicide from last year, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri revealed during a news conference Thursday.
Back in 2019, a former Northeast High School football captain was shot and killed while riding his bike in south St. Pete. His name was Marquis Scott. He was 20 years old.
Gualtieri said the St. Petersburg Police Department's Major Crimes Unit had just recently identified 20-year-old Dominique Harris as a possible suspect in Scott's murder, and detectives wanted to question him about the homicide.
On Oct. 27, a 15-year-old boy was playing basketball on 27th Street South near 22nd Avenue South in St. Pete when the teen got into an argument with some other kids. Harris wasn't involved in the basketball game, but the sheriff's office said he injected himself into the argument.
"He picked up the 15-year-old boy and slammed him to the ground," Gualtieri said. "He also began to punch him several times in the torso area. And he caused injuries to this 15-year-old boy to the extent that it required this 15-year-old boy to go to All Children's Hospital for treatment."
St. Pete police determined there was probable cause to arrest Harris on felony child abuse charges for allegedly beating the 15-year-old. And, a warrant was issued.
Because Harris was being sought for questioning in Scott's murder and wanted for attacking the 15-year-old boy, police made the decision on Wednesday to find and try to arrest him.
According to Gualtieri, Harris' criminal history included charges of robbery, carjacking, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, throwing a deadly missile into an occupied dwelling, battery, grand theft auto, hit-and-run, reckless driving, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, and fleeing and eluding at a high speed. For about two years, Harris was monitored by Pinellas County's Home program, which deals with "prolific juvenile offenders."
Detectives with the St. Pete Police Department's Special Investigation Unit spotted Harris coming out of a home in St. Petersburg, Gualtieri said. Harris reportedly left the house in a car with a friend of his, and investigators tailed them.
Harris and his friend parked around 4:15 p.m. outside the Food Max on 18th Avenue South near 14th Street. They got out of the car and walked inside. Gualtieri said a shopper told investigators that Harris had a gun concealed in his waistband at the time.
At some point, Harris and his friend walked back outside. Then, the friend went into the store again while Harris sat in the car by himself.
Detectives wanted confirmation of Harris' identity, so they called for uniformed patrol officers to check. The uniformed officers, one of whom was a K-9 officer, walked up to the car.
According to Gualtieri, Harris rolled down his window and showed his identification to the two officers, who verified it was him.
"They asked him to step out of the car so they could arrest him and take him into custody, and he immediately rolled the window up of the car," Gualtieri said.
As Harris was rolling up the window, Gualtieri said he was also reaching into the console area. Concerned he might be reaching for a gun, the sheriff's office said the police officers decided to break the car window.
Investigators say Harris didn't exit the car and instead put it into reverse and plowed into a cruiser directly behind him. He then put the car in drive and crashed into a concrete pillar in front of the store, Gualtieri said. Harris then hit another car in the parking lot and came to a rest facing north -- just south of 18th Avenue South in the store's parking lot, according to law enforcement.
At that point, a detective was able to pull his car directly in front of the car Harris was in. Another officer parked his unit just feet away from Harris.
As that officer got out of his car to confront Harris, Gualtieri said Harris pointed a 9 mm handgun out the window and shot the officer twice in the mid-torso from just a couple of feet away. The officer underwent surgery at the hospital Wednesday night and was in stable condition on Thursday. The officer was released from the hospital Thursday evening, and the police department expects the officer to make a full recovery.
"Harris was trying to kill a cop," Gualtieri said.
At this point, Harris was surrounded by police. Six officers shot back. They fired at least 50 rounds, according to Gualtieri. Based on preliminary information, it appears Harris was shot at least 38 times, investigators said.
"The officers did exactly what they should've done and what they are trained to do, and that is to neutralize the threat and to keep shooting until the threat stops, so they don't get hurt and that they can go home to their families and that they can remain safe," Gualtieri said.
Eventually, officers said Harris appeared unconscious, so they went in through the car's passenger side in an effort to pull him out. The gun was still in his hand at the time, Gualtieri said. As officers were removing Harris from the car, investigators said the gun fell out of his hand and ended up on the floorboard.
Harris was eventually pronounced dead.
According to Gualtieri, Harris had five rounds left in the seemingly-extended, after-market magazine that was found in the gun. There was one round in the chamber, and four other casings have been recovered, according to law enforcement.
Because the shooting involved the St. Petersburg Police Department, other agencies on the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force are taking the lead in the investigation to determine whether the officers were justified in firing their weapons. The sheriff's office is spearheading that investigation with help from police in Clearwater and Pinellas Park.
"This is a very unique situation in that five of the six officers who shot are in undercover positions," Gualtieri said.
As a result, Gualtieri only identified the patrol officer who is not undercover. However, he did provide the following information about all six law enforcement officers involved in the shootout:
- UNDERCOVER 1: 36-year-old male detective with 14 years of service with the St. Pete Police Department. In 2007, he had an accidental discharge of a firearm. Then, in 2013, he was involved in a shootout with someone wanted for homicide. He killed the wanted man, and the shooting was ruled justified by the state attorney's office and by a command review board.
- UNDERCOVER 2: 37-year-old male detective with 12 years of service in the St. Pete Police Department. He previously discharged his weapon to kill a "vicious dog," which was ruled justified.
- UNDERCOVER 3: 29-year-old female officer with two years of service in the St. Pete Police Department. She had no prior shootings or disciplinary incidents.
- UNDERCOVER 4: 41-year-old male officer with 13 years of service in the St. Pete Police Department. He had no prior shootings or disciplinary incidents.
- UNDERCOVER 5: 49-year-old detective who has been with the St. Pete Police Department for 28 years. He discharged his firearm in 2003 and 2008. Both were during shootouts. The 2008 shooting was with a suspected robber. The state attorney's office and a command review board determined both shootings were justified.
- POLICE OFFICER: Patrol Officer Richard McKee, 58, has 28 years of service as a police officer. He had one incident that resulted in a five-day suspension for "improper procedures." That was related to check-on, check-off duty violation. He had an accidental discharge of a firearm in 2010. Nobody was hurt in that situation.
The officers involved in the shooting have all been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard policy in situations like this one.
In addition to the one officer who was shot and wounded, another officer was somehow injured -- but not shot -- in the chaos, authorities said.
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