|Birth: ||Aug. 28, 1962|
|Death: ||Jan. 24, 2011|
Thomas John Baitinger was born in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin to parents Kenneth G. and Lulu Marie Baitinger. Baitinger had two sisters and one brother (Jayne A., Amy, and Kenneth M.) and he grew up in Dane County. In 1981, Baitinger graduated from Middleton High School, where he sang in the school’s choir and played trumpet in the band. Baitinger earned a BS degree in Behavior Science and Law, from the University of Wisconsin, to prepare for a career in law enforcement. Baitinger started his law enforcement career as a part-time officer in the Cottage Grove, Wisconsin and Fitchburg, Wisconsin police departments. Next, Baitinger became a Deputy Sheriff for the Dane County Sheriff’s Department and remained there for seven years.
In 1996, Baitinger started working as a police officer for the City of St. Petersburg in the patrol division, transferred into a position as a community police officer, and then became a Detective. In 2004, Baitinger was promoted to Sergeant and later became the Sergeant of the Field Training Unit. Baitinger served the Department as a High Liability Instructor, mentored youth at Gibbs High School, and earned his MBA from St. Leo University. Baitinger married his wife, Paige M. Gayzagian, and they did not have any children.
On 24 Jan 2001, at 0729 hours, Sergeant Baitinger was on-duty when he heard the words “gunshots” and “officer down” come over the police radio. Baitinger responded to the scene without hesitation. Upon arrival on scene, Baitinger quickly learned that K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz had been shot in the attic of the residence and a Deputy US Marshall was shot and trapped in the bathroom of the main part of the house. Baitinger also learned that the suspect, Hydra Lacy, Jr. was an active shooter in the attic and was shooting at officers through the ceiling. At 0743 hours, Baitinger obtained a ballistic shield, held it over his head, and heroically led a rescue team into the house to save the fallen officers. From all accounts, Baitinger did not show any hesitation to lead the rescue team or risk his own life. Once inside, Baitinger passed under the attic entrance as Lacy fired a shot down that struck the lower back of Baitinger’s ballistic vest. Other officers quoted Baitinger as saying, “I’ve been hit; I’m okay; Let’s get Yaz (Yaslowitz)”. Immediately, more shots sounded from the attic and one of the rounds struck the Ballistic shield with a glancing hit across the inside of the shield. Lacy then fired another shot from a 9mm caliber gun that just missed Baitinger’s ballistic vest and struck him in the upper shoulder. Although Baitinger was mortally wounded he made his way to a bedroom in the house. Officers were able to lift Baitinger out of the house through the bedroom window and he was taken by ambulance to the Bayfront Medical Center, and he was pronounced deceased at 0828 hours.
Sergeant Baitinger was survived by his parents; his wife, Paige; and his three siblings listed above. A large service was held at the First Baptist Church in St. Petersburg and Baitinger was cremated. Baitinger loved life and had many interests, such as golf, sports, and playing cards with friends. Baitinger was very passionate about his team, the Green Bay Packers, but his greatest interest was working as a police officer. At age 48 and with 15 years of service, Sergeant Thomas John Baitinger was the fourteenth St. Petersburg police officer to be killed in the line of duty.
Note: National Law Enforcement Memorial: Panel 1 - W: line 28
Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.
Maintained by: Mike
Originally Created by: James Myers
Record added: Jan 24, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 64649198