A teenager who was convicted of the 2011 murder of a St. Petersburg police officer will spend the rest of his life in prison. Nicholas Lindsey, Jr. had been sentenced to life without parole, but his attorneys appealed the sentence because Lindsey had just turned 16 when he shot and killed Officer David Crawford.
Defense attorneys cited a recent Supreme Court ruling that said juveniles who kill should not be automatically sentenced to life without parole. The defense claimed that Lindsey had “acted impulsively, not fully appreciating the consequences, due to youthful lack of reasoning.”
Defense Attorney Dyril Flanagan added that Lindsey had grown up in a troubled neighborhood, exposed to substance abuse and violence. The arguments were designed to show that Lindsey was less culpable for his crimes and to suggest that Lindsey had a chance of being rehabilitated.
Circuit Judge Thane Covert upheld the ruling, citing that Lindsey could not be rehabilitated, due to his criminal past, the violent nature of his crimes, and his outrageous behavior in prison. Covert stated that Lindsey showed a pattern of criminal activity that escalated to Crawford’s murder, and continued during incarceration, when Lindsey engaged in a fight with another inmate and cut the fellow inmate in the face with a sharp object.
“This shows the defendant still engages in violent behavior and has a propensity to use weapons,” Covert said. “The Court concludes that the deliberate senselessness and callous nature of this murder, along with the defendant’s extreme behavior far outweigh the circumstances of youthful characteristics seen in the defendant.”
Covert called the case “tragic”, because “a police officer lost his life; his family, friends, and colleagues lost a valued individual.”
“It is also tragic, because this young man has lost the ability to live his life freely,” Covert said. “The defendant will never have freedom again and will die in prison.”
The ordeal began on February 21, 2011. Officer Crawford and Officer Donald J. Ziglar responded to a report of a suspicious person. Crawford located a man who fit the description, parked his cruiser, and approached the suspect on foot. Moments later, Ziglar found Crawford on the pavement near his cruiser, with multiple close-range gunshot wounds to his chest. The suspect had fled on foot. Lindsey turned himself in the next day. With his parents’ permission, Lindsey voluntarily gave a taped confession, although he changed his story several times.
Lindsey was no “choir boy”; he already had prior arrests of burglary and grand theft auto. In his confession, Lindsey claimed that his gun went off accidentally and he kept shooting because he was afraid of dying because Crawford drew a weapon as he approached Lindsey.
During last year’s trial, Defense Attorney Dyril Flanagan had asked the jury to consider a charge of manslaughter. He portrayed Lindsey as a “scared child”, who grew up in a crime ridden neighborhood and armed himself with a high powered automatic handgun because he had been threatened, harassed, hunted, and bullied by boys from rival neighborhoods. Flanagan claimed that Lindsey had panicked when Crawford approached him.
”The thing just got away from him. The gun goes off. It was an accidental discharge,” Flanagan said.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett described Lindsey as a cold-blooded killer. Crime scene evidence revealed that all Crawford had in his hand as he approached Lindsey was a notebook; Lindsey fired the fatal shots with no provocation. Crawford never had a chance to draw his weapon.
“The only reason he stopped firing was because he ran out of bullets,” Bartlett said. “This was no ‘accident’. A gun doesn’t just go off. Each time Lindsey pulled the trigger, it was premeditation. He didn’t fire once and run away. The only reason he stopped firing was because he ran out of bullets. He clearly made a conscious decision to kill Officer Crawford.”
Lindsey’s attorneys have already started the appeal process, but for now it seems Lindsey will never again see the world beyond prison walls.
Crawford’s family expressed relief at the Court’s decision, and now they can begin the healing process.
“Justice was served,” said Crawford’s daughter, Amanda. “I‘m just glad it’s over. It just proves to me he’s an animal because he just sat there smiling the whole time.” Lindsey should be sentenced to life, the same way Lindsey’s family was sentenced to life without their loving, devoted husband and father.
Lindsey has never apologized to the Crawford family, nor has he shown any remorse. He smiled cockily throughout the proceedings, confident that he would get away with a slap on the wrist. The only time Lindsey cried was during his confession, and those were “alligator tears”, shed only for himself.
Lindsey’s parents, Deneen Sweat and Nicholas Lindsey, Senior, expressed no sympathy for the Crawford’s family nor did they apologize for their son’s behavior. They remained stoic throughout the proceedings.
“It’s what the judge said, it is what it is,” the defendant’s mother said.
Crawford, 46, had faithfully and honorably served the community for 25 years. He was the third St. Petersburg officer killed in the line of duty in 2011. Lindsey’s trial closes one part of this tragic chapter in the city’s history.
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