Man with ax had history of mental illness, police say - FOX 13 News

Man with ax had history of mental illness, police say

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(Photo courtesy: St. Petersburg Police Department) (Photo courtesy: St. Petersburg Police Department)
ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

A man shot dead by a St. Petersburg police officer Monday night had a long history of mental illness, the department said Tuesday.

Kenneth Robert Sprankle, 27, had been held under the state's Baker Act seven times since March of this year, police said.

"The officer made several attempts at gun point to drop the weapon and point it down," said Mike Puetz with the Saint Petersburg Police Department.

Sprankle was walking through downtown carrying an ax and threatening people, witnesses said.

"No he is not a threat. I could have taken the ax from him by myself," said a homeless man identifying himself as Fatboy.

Surveillance video obtained by FOX 13's Kim Kuizon showed Sprankle walking down the sidewalk with the ax, with several people following him.

A day later, the scene is clear, but what isn't clear to his friends is why he was killed.

"They should have tased him, pepper sprayed him, anything but shoot him in the chest four or five times," said a man named Levi.

But police say, in cases where a weapon is involved, stun guns are not an option.

"Taser is not 100 percent effective, especially in a case where you have to get very close to that person," Puetz said.

His friends said the argument started after his lighter was stolen. Police haven't confirmed that, but they can confirm before wielding the ax, he had been smoking Spice, a synthetic drug.

"It seemed like after that he consumed that he started to get more agitated and upset," Puetz said.

Police said Sprankle stole the ax from a St. Petersburg Fire Department truck that was responding to a call downtown on Saturday.

Officer Damien Schmidt, 55, is now on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

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