Thousands attend fallen St. Petersburg officers’ viewing; More expected at Friday funeral

January 28th, 2011 by Staff

ST. PETERSBURG – Thousands of people attended the viewing for the two fallen St. Petersburg police officers held Thursday night.

The viewing was held at the First Baptist Church in St. Petersburg at 1900 Gandy Blvd. for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger, 48, and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39.

It’s been more than 30 years since the city of St. Petersburg said goodbye to a police officer killed in the line of duty and now it’s being forced to say goodbye to two.

Baitinger and Yaslowitz were shot to death Monday while assisting a U.S. Marshal in seeking fugitive Hydra Lacy, Jr.

Family members and close friends of both of the officers arrived in a motorcade just before 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon at the church.

“The outpouring of support has been incredible,” Bill Profitt of the St. Petersburg Police Department said. “We’re really overwhelmed by it.”

Near the front entrance to the church, the officers’ cruisers were parked hood-to-hood with flowers on top.

The somber scene drew fellow law enforcement officers from near and far, as well as citizens who just wanted to show their support.

“The whole force, you can just see it on their faces how bad it is,” resident Gail Schroeder said. “Hopefully we won’t see this happening again in our city of St. Petersburg. You do hear about it happening in other cities and you do feel for those cities, but not St. Petersburg. It’s a lazy, laid-back area.”

Many St. Petersburg police officers attended the viewing, as well as units from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa Police Department.

Elected officials in attendance said they wanted to make sure the officers’ families know the city will continue to stand by them.

“You’re family,” St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Wengay Newton said. “I mean, I was at the swearing-in ceremonies, I was at the promotion ceremonies. I mean, you see them around the city keeping us safe because that’s what they do and they put their lives on the line every day.”

An even larger crowd is expected for the joint funeral service, which will be held Friday.

The funeral for both of the officers will be held in the same location Friday at 11 a.m. Bay News 9 will be carrying that event live on air.

A memorial fund has been set up for the fallen officers called the Jeffrey Yaslowitz/Thomas Baitinger Memorial Fund.

You can donate to the families of the officers at Suncoast Law Enforcement Charities, located at 14141 46th St. N., Suite 1205, Clearwater, FL 3376.

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