CLEARWATER — Before he left Shephard's Beach Resort in his truck and smashed into a tandem bicycle and killed its two riders, Christopher Patrick Weed had a drink.
Weed can be seen drinking alcoholic beverages at the hotel bar where he worked in surveillance video obtained by the Tampa Bay Times from the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office. People who appear to be his co-workers also are drinking. At one point they raise shot glasses together.
The video is likely to become important evidence in a civil lawsuit against Shephard's, a Clearwater Beach hotel previously accused of serving alcohol to people already intoxicated.
It also raises a question for bars and restaurants that cater to Tampa Bay area tourists and locals: When do you cut someone off? And what if that someone is your employee?
Shephard's attorney, Daniel Shapiro, would not answer questions about the case, but released this statement:
"Our deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to the families involved in this tragic accident," it said. "Out of respect for both the families and the judicial process, we feel that it would be inappropriate to comment upon these important issues at this time."
The video shows Weed had "at least three or four shots while at the bar and one or two beers while at the bar," Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser said at a recent court hearing. "The defendant indicated to law enforcement that he blacked out, does not recall anything about the crash," he added.
But Rosenwasser said Weed admitted to friends that he was the only one driving the truck, "and that he had hit something, or hit someone."
Weed, 30, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death and is expected to be sentenced on May 19 to 11 years in prison and three years of probation as part of a plea agreement.
The morning of the fatal crash last September, Weed had been working as a "bar back" at Shephard's and had some drinks afterward, Rosenwasser said. The video first shows him taking a drink at the bar at 3:19 a.m., according to the time stamp on the video, presumably when the bar was closed. Most of the drinking appears to take place between 4:15 and 5:15 a.m.
Rosenwasser said in court that Weed ran into the couple on a tandem bicycle on Memorial Causeway between 6 and 6:15 a.m. He did not stop. The crash killed Robert Lemon, 25, and Hilary Michalak, 27, of Largo.
In December, Michalak's family filed a lawsuit against Weed and Shephard's, saying the bar should not have provided alcohol to Weed.
There have been other lawsuits against Shephard's involving alcohol. In 2008, for example, a 22-year-old man was killed in an accident while walking across Memorial Causeway, purportedly after drinking at Shephard's. The man's father sued Shephard's, saying it should not have served him because it knew he was a "habitual drunkard." The case was settled.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8232. Follow him on Twitter @ckruegertimes.