10/16/17 Public Safety
LARGO — Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired a deputy Monday after an investigation found he offered to pay an 18-year-old woman he had recently arrested and her friend to come to his house while his young daughter was asleep in the home.
Deputy Brian Britt, 45, was terminated after 17 years with the department. Gualtieri said his behavior was "a betrayal of his oath."
"It just shows an absolute, 100 percent lack of character, lack of values, terrible decision-making," he said, "and to put your child in that type of a situation is just totally reprehensible."...
10/13/17 Public Safety
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into the arrest of a 25-year-old man after dash camera footage appears to show deputies beating, choking and yanking him by the hair while he lay on the pavement.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Friday that the internal investigation began about two weeks ago into the May 25 incident that resulted in the arrest of Jimarez Donshay Reed outside his girlfriend's home near Pinellas Park. Pinellas-Pasco public defender Bob Dillinger brought it to the sheriff's attention through an internal affairs complaint....
LARGO — The water had risen to the edge of the tub, over the rim and onto the floor before Alan Morris remembered to check on his 13-month-old.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recounted Thursday how Morris went from the bedroom to the bathroom across the hallway of the home near Largo.
When he got there, baby Liam was floating on his back, water from the faucet pouring onto his face. He was pronounced dead that evening....
10/12/17 Local Government
INDIAN SHORES — A battle over a lawsuit that racked up more than $100,000 in legal fees and soured the relationship between the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District and a group of residents came to an end Wednesday when the fire board decided not to move forward with an appeal.
The 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Lawrence Schear absent due to illness, concluded a lawsuit lodged by an Indian Rocks Beach commissioner and district resident claiming the wording of a referendum granting the district authority to collect a property tax was misleading. Last month, a circuit judge threw out the referendum when he sided with the resident, Edward Hoofnagle....
10/12/17 Public Safety
Donald Hall's mail carrier was usually late.
More than 30 years ago, the Tallahassee native was waiting on a letter from Florida State University police to let him know if he got an officer job he'd applied for.
But just moments before the carrier came by with the letter, the Clearwater Police Department swooped in and offered him the job.
He would stay for 33 years, working in patrol, economic crimes and eventually rising his way up to deputy chief until he recently retired. He said he may go on to teach in the future, but for now, he's got a to-do list to tackle after decades of service....
10/11/17 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The prominent city official who police said engaged in a drunken golf cart ride and fight downtown has resigned.
Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor's resignation is effective at 5 p.m. today. City manager Bill Horne said Taylor's conduct, while out of character, was inappropriate for a city employee, especially one in a key leadership position.
"He was an embarrassment to us all," Horne said. "It's just not something that should in any way characterize how city employees interact with our public in our community."...
ST. PETERSBURG — It was a quiet morning in the PEMHS south campus day room as residents colored on sheets of paper and Home Improvement reruns played on a TV in the corner.
For 30 years, PEMHS, or Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services, has operated a treatment facility for people with mental illness out of the building at 401 16th St. N.
But that quiet morning last week would be one of its last. ...
CLEARWATER — A police sergeant with a checkered disciplinary history was arrested Tuesday after deputies said he shoved his girlfriend during an argument.
John Brown, 47, faces a battery charge, according to his arrest report. Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter said the agency has opened an internal investigation into the incident. Brown, a patrol sergeant, was reassigned to administrative duties....
A hectic month of insults, court filings and finger-pointing ended last week with at least one clear outcome: Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District residents won't pay a property tax this year after all.
District commissioners decided during an emergency meeting on Sept. 29 to rescind a property tax they had approved days earlier after a judge ruled the referendum allowing the tax was illegal and instructed the county property appraiser not to reflect it on the tax roll....
10/04/17 Public Safety
Johnny Stamper and Denise Decker dove to the ground.
Within seconds, a young woman behind them was shot in the chest.
They didn't stick around long enough at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas to find out what happened to her. But Stamper said there was little chance she lived.
They had witnessed the beginning of a massacre that left at least 59 dead and hundreds wounded when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock unleashed a high-powered barrage on festivalgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Stamper, a 58-year-old Tarpon Springs resident and owner of Johnny's Taphouse & Grill downtown, and Decker, his girlfriend, made it out physically unscathed. But days later, they were still grappling with the experience....
09/29/17 Local Government
INDIAN SHORES — Residents of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District will not face a property tax next year after commissioners voted Friday to rescind the tax they had approved days earlier, ending for now a complex legal battle that pitted the county property appraiser and group of residents against the board.
The 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Lawrence Schear absent, came after residents expressed concern over the legality of collecting the tax when a judge ruled against the district in a lawsuit challenging the referendum that created the tax. ...
09/29/17 Economic Development
LARGO — Construction is complete on a 29-unit apartment complex in downtown Largo.
Management of the 158 Ridge Apartment Homes is ready to lease the one- and two-bedroom units with modern interiors, in-unit washers and dryers, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, according to a news release from St. Petersburg-based Dean & DeWitt Property Management. Rents run from $1,160 for the one-bedroom, one-bath units to $1,475 for the two-bedroom, two-bath units, according to the property manager's website....
09/29/17 Human Interest
TARPON SPRINGS — The boat was 32 feet, white fiberglass, with sails stretching up, up, up. It was, Carl Shepherd decided that day, the boat he would retire in.
"What are you going to do?" asked his friend, Michael Ellzey, who drove him to Fort Myers in August to check out the vessel.
Sail everywhere, Shepherd told him. Live out the rest of his life on the water.
But Shepherd didn't get to spend his last years peacefully on a sailboat. Instead, he spent his final moments in chaos on a shrimp trawler in the middle of one of the most powerful hurricanes in recent history....
Clearwater man to Largo Mall Red Lobster hostess: "I work for the Taliban, and I have a bomb in this bag"09/28/17Crime
LARGO — Police officers arrested a Clearwater man Thursday after he told a Red Lobster hostess he had a bomb and was from the Taliban, then later said he was joking.
Freddie Claudrick Bryant, 50, walked into the restaurant in Largo Mall just after 3 p.m. Thursday, carrying a black bag, Largo Police said. He's now facing possession of cocaine charges as well as a second-degree felony charge for falsely reporting a bomb. He's currently being held on a $28,000 bond....
UPDATE: In light of the property appraiser's motion, the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District will hold an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. Friday. Commissioners will consider adopting a property tax rate of $0. If commissioners approve the change, it would replace the 50-cent property tax rate commissioners approved Wednesday, according to a district notice. The meeting will be held on the fourth floor of the Indian Shores Municipal Center, 19305 Gulf Blvd....