The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) released body-worn camera and dash-camera footage from the June 26 incident, when a St. Petersburg officer was nearly hit in the head by a gunshot.
“If Officer Kuznetsov’s head had been tilted slightly to the left, or he had taken one more step before he stopped, there’s no doubt that he would have been shot in the head,” PCSO Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press briefing, noting that the officer told him after the incident he “literally” heard the bullet “whizzed by his head.”
Officers returned fire that day on 23-year-old Austin Kingos, who was stopped at about 3:30 p.m. while driving a white van in a St. Petersburg area.
The suspect, who has a series of mental health issues, was struck in the leg by the returned fire. He was taken into custody a short time later after attempting to flee on foot despite his injuries. He will be transferred to Pinellas County Jail after receiving treatment. No officer was injured in the confrontation, police said.
Authorities said the suspect had probable cause for his arrest on a misdemeanor charge of violating a stalking injunction that was served on him in early June after becoming “obsessed” with a woman and repeatedly sending items to her home and contacting her inappropriately.
“Kingos became infatuated with a woman he met at a store,” Gualtieri said, adding that after meeting a few times, he started to send multiple items to her home, including a breastfeeding pump and infant clothes, after telling her he wanted to have a baby with her, which the woman refused, telling him she wasn’t interested in starting a relationship with him.
The man continued to contact her and send items before the woman reported him to police, the sheriff said, leading to the stalking injunction. After the injunction, he continued to contact her and started to violate the injunction, leading to officers developing a probable cause for his arrest on a misdemeanor charge.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that Kingos is now facing charges that include two counts of attempted murder on a law enforcement officer along with multiple charges related to violating the stalking injunction.
“He needs to be held accountable for his actions. And he needs to face the consequences of the criminal justice system,” the sheriff said. “He tried to kill two cops—two guys who came to work and tried to do the right thing and trying to protect the community who very, very easily Saturday night could have not gone home.”
In the video released by the department, Officer Ronald McKenzie is seen asking Kingos for identification before a struggle between him and the suspect ensued.
The suspect then produced a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and allegedly fired at the officers, the sheriff’s office said. He then attempted to flee the scene on foot via the vehicle’s passenger side.
Gualtieri noted during the briefing that Kingos gun jammed during the confrontation, adding that the suspect bought the handgun legally in 2020 and had “minimal” contact with law enforcement in the past.
“[If not for that] gun jamming he would have fired several more rounds, and we, of course, don’t know what that outcome would have been,” the sheriff said.
The officers involved, identified as Pavel Kuznetsov and McKenzie, will be placed on paid administrative leave.