State attorney says St. Petersburg officer justified in fatal shooting

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office has determined that a St. Petersburg police officer was justified in the fatal shooting of a man last month.

An investigation has determined that Officer Jace Morrow had reason to believe he was in danger when he shot Gus Spanoudis, 63, in his mother’s St. Petersburg apartment on November 27.

Body camera footage showed Spanodis pointing a gun at officers, State Attorney Bruce Bartlett wrote in a letter to Police Chief Anthony Holloway. But he did not follow instructions to lower the gun.

According to Bartlett’s letter, Moreau shot Spanudis six times.

Just after 3:40 a.m. on November 27, St. Petersburg police received a 911 call to reports of a hit and run near 13th Avenue N and 50th Street N. The rear bumper of the suspect’s vehicle, including the license plate, was left on the street at the scene, Bartlett wrote, and police determined it belonged to a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu named Mary Spanoudis.

Morrow and Sergeant James Demaria went to an apartment on the 1200 block of 58th Street N, the address listed by Mary Spanoudis. They knocked on the door multiple times, but no one responded, Bartlett wrote. The police went back to the apartment after they left. According to Bartlett, they found Mary Spanoudis’ phone number and Demaria contacted her around 5:30 a.m. She said her son Gus Spanoudis lived in the apartment and had access to the car.

“She further stated that it was unusual that she had not spoken to her son since Thanksgiving,” Bartlett wrote.

After still no answer, Mary Spanudis called for a welfare check on her son. Just after 6am, police entered the apartment and found Gus Spanoudis in the bedroom.

Moreau saw Spanodis holding a gun.

According to Bartlett’s letter, Spanudis told Moreau: “I’m probably going to shoot myself, take a step back.”

Spanodis turned his gun on Morrow. Bartlett wrote that the officer asked him to put his gun down before firing Spanudis twice. Morrow again told Spanoudis to put down his gun, and Spanoudis continued to point the gun at the officer. Moreau fired four more shots at Spanudis, the letter said.

Spanoudis was taken to hospital and pronounced dead. Bartlett’s letter did not say how many times Spanudis was shot, but an autopsy determined he was shot. The autopsy also found cocaine in Spanoudis’ body, Bartlett wrote.

“Officer Morrow has reason to believe that he and Officer Demaria are in danger of death or serious bodily harm as a result of Spanoudis’ actions,” Bartlett wrote. “Consequently, Officer Morrow shot and killed Gus Spanodis in the lawful discharge of his legal duties, and the death constitutes justified homicide.”

Morrow was hired in November 2015. He was placed on “no duty” following the Nov. 27 incident, which is routine after police shootings. Moro returned to normal work on December 15, according to a St. Petersburg police spokesman.