Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Before firing, St. Petersburg officer apologized about Facebook posts

ST. PETERSBURG — Before he was fired last week, a police officer told investigators he was embarrassed about social media posts he wrote in which he declared gang members "a lost cause" deserving of "death or prison."

Officer David Garrett told investigators with the St. Petersburg Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards that the posts "were obviously in poor judgment."

"Hindsight being 20/20, I wouldn’t have done it and, you know, I would like to apologize for making the posts," Garrett said, according to a report on the matter.

Garrett, a 4-year veteran of the agency, was fired last week after police leadership sustained a complaint against Garrett for conduct unbecoming an employee.

The complaint stemmed from comments Garrett made on Facebook in December using a fake name, Dave Gee, in response to this prompt from Facebook user Alexis Lush: "How come we show so much sympathy to the teen from the suburbs who chooses suicide as a way to stop bullies, but we show no sympathy to the teen from the hood that chooses to join a gang in order to stop being their bully? Isn’t an innocent life lost in that case as well?"

The prompt set off a discussion among a handful of people in the comments. Garrett seemed to reject the parallel between those who choose suicide and those who join gangs.

"They are a lost cause," he said of the gang members, referring to where they live as "the ghetto." "They deserve death or prison. There is no saving them."

Garrett also posted a link to a rap video on YouTube and said he’s arrested many of the people featured in it. That prompted others in the discussion to click on Garrett’s Facebook profile, which featured photos of him in his St. Petersburg police uniform.

Once those in the comment thread identified Garrett as a police officer, discussion turned to whether someone should alert the department of his views. Two people took screen grabs of the exchange to send to St. Petersburg police before Garrett deleted the comments several hours later. One woman, Amanda Prescott of Texas, told professional standards investigators she asked herself if Garrett’s comments were serious.

"And so I looked at his profile and noticed that he was wearing a St. Pete police uniform in his picture and then I got even more irate," she said. "I think he realized that he should not have made those comments as someone that is sworn to protect the community."

Garrett told investigators his comments were specifically about those who appear in the rap video, which features teens or young adults holding various types of guns and blades while wearing Halloween costumes. The video has more than 150,000 views, and the group’s YouTube channel has 17,000 subscribers.

The officer told investigators he patrolled areas in south St. Petersburg and monitored "gangs" in Bethel Heights, Alden Park, Harbordale and Childs Park. He said he watches those videos as a way of gathering "intelligence:" who has guns and stolen cars. Garrett also told investigators when he said "ghetto," he was referring to the area he patrols as being one of low income, not of a particular racial makeup.

He said he deleted the posts "because I realized they were in poor judgment and poor taste."

Police leadership condemned Garrett’s comments.

"Officer Garrett’s comments on social media brought discredit to himself, the Department and adversely affected his job, as well as his reputation or goodwill in the community," the department said in a statement.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

Comments
‘Tase me, and you’ll see what happens,’ an American Airlines flier said. Police did - 10 times.

‘Tase me, and you’ll see what happens,’ an American Airlines flier said. Police did - 10 times.

Washington PostWhat began as a simple boarding dispute at Miami International Airport escalated into a tour de force of plane drama on Sunday as a belligerent passenger was repeatedly stunned by police, forcibly carried out of his seat, then driven t...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
In search for stolen car, the baby inside was the calmest one

In search for stolen car, the baby inside was the calmest one

ST. PETERSBURG — Photojournalist Michael Egger pulled into the apartment complex off 71st Avenue N on Monday afternoon, waiting for reporter Mark Douglas. The two WFLA-Ch. 8 journalists were looking for someone — they wouldn’t say who — when they fou...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Deputies: Parents may have fled with newborn ordered taken by court

Deputies: Parents may have fled with newborn ordered taken by court

TAMPA — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a missing child alert on Monday for the 1-month-old son of an Illinois couple who fled to Tampa after losing custody of two other children. Newborn Sage Cooper was last seen Friday at a home on...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Deputies: Port Richey man admits molesting, attempting to rape 8-year-old girl

Deputies: Port Richey man admits molesting, attempting to rape 8-year-old girl

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 26-year-old man was arrested Friday on charges that he molested and attempted to rape an 8-year-old girl, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Kaleb Harrah, 26, of Port Richey, faces charges of attempted sexual battery o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FHP: Man struck, killed by SUV while walking in center of road

FHP: Man struck, killed by SUV while walking in center of road

TRINITY — A 49-year-old man was struck and killed early Monday morning by a sport-utility vehicle as he walked in the center of westbound Trinity Boulevard, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Phillip Meadows, of New Port Richey, was wearing dark...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

TAMPA — A man with a history of arrests for roadside soliciting has been found dead at the side of a road. Jess Paez, 51, was identified by Tampa police Monday as the victim of an apparent hit-and-run crash over the weekend. His body was found about ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Police arrest suspect in Waffle House shooting

Police arrest suspect in Waffle House shooting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The suspect in a quadruple homicide at a Nashville Waffle House was taken into custody Monday, police said. Authorities had mounted a massive manhunt for 29-year-old Travis Reinking, after the Sunday morning attacks. Authorities an...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Waffle House customer on why he rushed shooter: ‘He was going to have to work to kill me’

Waffle House customer on why he rushed shooter: ‘He was going to have to work to kill me’

Moments before the first shot, James Shaw Jr. was watching a Waffle House employee wash dishes, stacking them higher and higher. When the first shot was fired, Shaw thought the tower of plates had come crashing down, he would later recount at a news ...
Published: 04/23/18
Teen killed in Hernando crash was ‘always smiling and laughing’

Teen killed in Hernando crash was ‘always smiling and laughing’

WEEKI WACHEE — Seth Leathers was on his way to play basketball at his church when he was killed Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, according to family friend Laurie Pike.Leathers, 16, was the passenger in a car driven by his friend G...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: St. Petersburg man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

Deputies: St. Petersburg man on LSD knocks out teen girl at RaceTrac while her parent pumps gas

ST. PETERSBURG — A man punched a 13-year-old girl inside a RaceTrac convenience store Saturday, knocking her unconscious as her parent pumped gas outside, Pinellas deputies reported. Kolbe Wayne Smith, 27, of St. Petersburg now faces charges o...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18