A 25-year-old man, Nicholas Provenza, was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Tarpon Springs, Florida on Saturday during a crowded car show for charity, and relatives are now seeking answers, according to ABC Action News.
At around 1:30 p.m. on May 6, the Tarpon Springs Police Department says that an off-duty police officer was working downtown at a charity car show when he was approached by several attendees, who were complaining about a suspicious person on a bicycle “wearing an orange jacket with the hood pulled over his head,” near Tarpon Avenue and Safford Avenu.
The unidentified officer approached the man, who was later identified as Provenza, and asked for his name and date of birth. When the police officer radioed the name that was given, there was no match. It was reported that the officer asked again, and Provenza gave another fake name. As the officer repeated the name to dispatch, radio communication went silent.
Moments later, dispatchers could hear the police officer yelling, “Shots fired! Shots fired! Shots fired!” The officer told dispatchers that Provenza came at him with a knife, which allegedly led to the Tarpon Springs car show shooting.
When emergency medical services arrived at the scene, Provenza was rushed to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he was pronounced dead hours after arriving. The officer involved in the Tarpon Springs shooting was not injured.
The victim’s family and friends were stunned after learning that Provenza had been killed during an officer-involved shooting in Tarpon Springs because he supposedly drew a knife at an officer.
A long-time friend of the victims, Benjamin Peck, stated that “the whole story is just completely out of character for him” as he was “a kind, gentle soul, and a vegan–who even refused to kill bugs in their home.”
“He wouldn’t harm an ant, and they’re saying he pulled a knife on a law enforcement officer? That just doesn’t make sense.”
Ponzoski’s fiancé, Rebecca Schnell, was visibly upset during the victim’s memorial, which was held at Tarpon and Safford Avenues in downtown Tarpon Springs, where Ponzoski was shot and killed by police.
“It should’ve never, never happened,” Schnell said while choking back tears. “They could’ve tased him. They could’ve done something else.”
Schnell went on to say that the Tarpon Springs shooting victim was suffering from a mental illness after losing his sister. His father, Charles, had tried for years to get Ponzoski the help he needed, but he was unsuccessful.
She added that if the victim did, in fact, pull out a knife while interacting with an officer at the Tarpon Springs car show, there was no reason to shoot her fiancé dead in the street.
“It just seems like a nightmare that I just want to wake up from,” Schnell added.
Over the weekend, a video of the shooting in Tarpon Springs was submitted to the media. It captures the officer reacting to the car show shooting as the victim lay dying in the street. Afterward, bystanders rushed to the police officer’s side, consoling him until the emergency crew arrived.
“I think it’s important that it was filmed because there needs to be some justice served,” said Ashley Ponzoski. “Whether the knife was there or not is now irrelevant because of the way that it ended. He lay there, gasping for air like he was just nothing.”
Family and friends are now questioning what really happened between the police officer and Ponzoski that led to the Tarpon Springs shooting, which left Ponzoski dying in the street.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now investigating the shooting in Tarpon Springs to uncover if “the officer’s actions were justified.” Anyone with information in the officer-involved Tarpon Springs shooting is urged to contact FDLE Tampa Field Office 813-878-7300.
[Featured Image by Komainu Anthony Provenza/Facebook]