On a Sunny Afternoon
By Anne McKay Garris
March 20th was a quiet Saturday on North Clearwater Beach, except for the young people who parked their cars in the neighborhood and chattered their way, laughing, to the beach. Unlike past years, not even the loud booming sounds from car radios disturbed the peace. Then the retired Marine, snoozing in his chair, heard a too familiar sound.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, a revolver sounded close by. Across the street, a neighbor heard the sound and looked out his back window at the next street over to see a number of vehicles of all types, a surprising number of plain clothes officers of the law beside or in the cars, and a man's body lying still in the middle of Poinsettia Street; not a usual sight on Clearwater Beach, especially the North Beach.
The tragedy had begun in an unincorporated section of Clearwater in the early morning hours. A nineteen-year-old man, named Alexander Blaine Epstein, arrived at a party taking place at a home on Curtis Drive, "looking for someone," according to witnesses. A verbal altercation took place and the shooting began, ending with one young man dying at the site, another on the way to the hospital, and a third in the hospital in critical condition.
Mr. Epstein forced the friend who had driven him to the party to take him home. Undercover Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputies who were investigating the shootings surrounded 665 Poinsettia Avenue where Mr. Epstein was staying. When the young man came outside, he started towards one of the deputies' vehicles. The Deputy told him he was under arrest and he reached for his pistol. The Deputy fired. The suspect then turned towards another Deputy who ordered him to drop his pistol, which was now in his hand. When he refused, the Deputy also fired.
As is the policy, both Deputies are on paid leave until a thorough investigation of the shooting is completed.
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