Clearwater officer shoots man
Police say a detective killed the man at a Drew Street strip mall as he got out of a car that matched the description of one involved in an assault on U.S. 19.
By JOSE CARDENAS
Published March 12, 2006
CLEARWATER - A police detective working in a restaurant parking lot shot a man to death early Sunday after the man, a possible suspect in an assault, got out of a car with a gun, police said.
Police said city Detective Steven Corrao was in uniform and working at Jose's Mexican Restaurant about 1:30 a.m., when he saw a car matching a description of one involved in the assault on U.S. 19.
As he walked up to the car, said police spokesman Wayne Shelor, a man got out with a semiautomatic handgun. Corrao shot him at least once.
The man died at the scene, a strip mall at 2097 Drew St., said authorities.
The dead man was not identified by authorities Sunday. An identity and details of the shooting were expected to be released today, following an autopsy.
Two men in the suspect's car were questioned by police, but no charges were filed by Sunday afternoon. Their identities were not released. Likewise, no description of the earlier assault on U.S. 19 was released.
A neighbor of the strip mall complained Sunday about disturbances, gang activity and a shooting there a few months ago.
"We don't see that place as a safe place," said Victor Suhweil, who owns an apartment complex nearby. "In my opinion (the restaurant) should be closed."
The stretch of Drew Street near Old Coachman Road where the shooting occurred is dominated by strip malls and office space.
Corrao, 33, has served on the force for seven years, authorities said.
His only discipline is counseling for a preventable vehicle crash. An internal affairs investigation found that a complaint lodged against him for excessive force was unfounded.
His evaluations have given him above standard marks, records show.
He was placed on paid administrative leave, in accord with department policy, pending the outcome of two investigations, Shelor said.
Criminal Investigation Division detectives will examine the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Detectives with the Office of Professional Standards will see whether Corrao complied with policies and procedures.
Officials from the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's office also came to the scene Sunday and will conduct their own investigation.
Suhweil, the apartment complex owner, described the area south of the strip mall as a nice, middle-class community. He said he intends to start a petition to urge city officials to close down the restaurant.
Shelor confirmed that police are familiar with trouble at the strip mall and that Corrao was working there Saturday night "in large part because of those problems."
Neither the owners of the strip mall nor a management company advertising office space at the site could be reached for comment Sunday.
Jose Luis Lopez, the owner of the restaurant, did not return a call seeking comment.
Outside, two surveillance cameras scan the parking lot from either end of the building.
Taped on a wall is a handwritten list of rules.
One warns against fights, and another says, "Remember that we have video cameras and they are recording the whole event."
[Last modified March 12, 2006, 22:57:02]
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