Lt. Robert Vincent
Public Information Officer


Gulfport Fugitive Killed in Pennsylvania Crash

On August 9th at approximately 11:20 PM, Kevin Messinger (38), of St. Petersburg, forced his way into a Gulfport home, pointing a gun at the occupants and threatening to kill them if they did not tell him where to find his ex-girlfriend.  She was not home at the time, and when one of the occupants found an opportunity to get to a phone and call 911, Messinger got into a 2009 Ford Mustang and drove away.

Gulfport Police immediately entered Messinger as a temporary wanted felon in the National Crime Information Computer, which is a designation only valid for a period of days.  They also sent a bulletin to other local agencies, but Messinger could not be found at any of his listed addresses.  In the mean time, Messinger's ex was moved to place of safety.

On August 11th, detectives dropped all other cases and spent the entire work day tracking leads and developing information on Messinger's whereabouts.  One of these leads revealed that the Mustang was recently stolen from a rental car agency and that it had fled from St. Petersburg Police early in the morning on August 11th.  Another lead indicated that detectives from Pinellas County Sheriff's Office had been looking to arrest Messinger on charges of dealing in stolen property.

Detective Sergeant Robert Burkhart met with an Assistant State Attorney of Florida's Sixth Judicial Circuit on August 11th, and he requested that an arrest warrant be processed for Kevin Messinger.  As of August 20th, the warrant process had not yet been completed, so Messinger was not officially wanted.  While Gulfport Police had probable cause for his arrest, the absence of a court-issued warrant meant that he could only be arrested for this offense if he was found within Pinellas County.  Nevertheless, Gulfport Police listed Messinger on their website as being among the most wanted fugitives for local crimes.

During the next several days, detectives spent approximately sixteen hours checking additional leads.  They learned the Messinger may have taken a Mazda pickup belonging to his mother's boyfriend and that he may have fled the area, even heading out of state.  Police updated the temporary felon entry on August 12th, sending the notice to all law enforcement agencies in the eastern United States.  A description of the pickup, including the license plate number, was included in this bulletin.  Unfortunately, the system is not set up to return a "hit" when an officer runs a license plate associated with such an entry.

On August 20th, Gulfport Police learned that Messinger had been identified as the driver of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania State Police reported that Messinger was fleeing from Palmer Township Police on Route 22 when he crashed head-on into a vehicle being driven by Jolene C. Labar, 31, of Washington Township, New Jersey.  Both Messinger and Labar were killed as a result of the crash.