Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Tampa police horse "Big Nasty" retiring his rein as "riderless horse"

TAMPA — His friends on the force call him "Big Nasty."

His hair is thinning, he's frequently grumpy and he never seems to notice when long strands of saliva drip from his protruding lower lip. Drool is a dead give-away the veteran Tampa Police Department officer is feeling nervous, his partners say. Or he could be excited. Or sleepy. Or chewing on a treat, preferably caramels, jelly donuts or peppermint candies.

But when the 14-year veteran performed his final act as a Tampa Police officer Wednesday morning, no one called him by his nickname.

Instead, the 21-year-old thoroughbred embodied the "riderless horse" in the department's annual memorial ceremony for fallen officers. With Cpl. Ellen Schantz leading him by the reins, the very sight of "Officer Chad" rendered audible gasps and tears from the crowd outside One Police Center downtown. With his head lowered and brown doe eyes shining, Chad marched bearing an empty saddle, a saber and backwards black boots, as if his rider is turned around to take one final look at those left behind in death.

It's a duty Chad has performed countless times both in Tampa and the state's capitol, but Wednesday's ceremony felt heavier, Schantz said. It was as if Chad knew it was he who would be taking his final look at the officers he dedicated his life to protecting.

"He's honest," Schantz said. "He's not the prettiest horse we have and I've always liked that about him. He's just real, and he's all heart."

His solid dark brown coat is what landed Chad the job of serving as the "riderless horse" in at least seven of the state's fallen officer memorial services in Tallahassee, Schantz said. Throughout history black horses have filled the role for ceremonies honoring presidents or high-ranking officials, but trained police horses with a solid dark coat are hard to find, she said.

The department has yet to decide which of the 6 horses that make up the mounted patrol unit will take Chad's place in next year's memorial.

"He's always had a great presence about him, and all the other horses kind of look to him to see what to do," said officer Tim Pasley, one of Chad's long-time partners in addition to Schantz and retired officer Will Wagner.

When he retires, Chad will join Wagner's horses in his farm in Thonotosassa - not far from the field where retired Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Don Hunt raised him for 7 years before donating him to the police department.

It was because of Pasley that Chad joined the squad. Tampa police weren't looking to recruit another horse, but Pasley managed to sneak Chad into the department's stables - shooing him away whenever Chad risked being seen by the patrol unit's former corporal.

"One day he was out there and finally started to count the horses and went, 'Hey, we've got one too many here,' " Pasley said. "But everybody loved Chad, so he just turned to me and said 'You brought him, you're going to ride him."

Chad is retiring several years earlier than most police horses, but Pasley said he has more than earned it.

About two years ago, Chad developed a medical condition called anhidrosis that prevents his body from producing sweat to prevent overheating. He's undergone countless acupuncture treatments and takes thyroid medications. Still, Chad's condition has forced him to spend about 6 months of the year sitting under a large fan in his stall while the rest of the team patrols crowds in the Florida heat.

He spends nights patrolling rowdy crowds in Ybor City and is a fixture at large events like the College Football Playoffs, Republican National Convention, and even the Superbowl.

He took a punch to the nose from a drunken Gasparilla pirate several years ago and barely flinched, Schantz said. He's won numerous awards in the Florida Police Olympics and earned the highest points overall with Schantz in 2010.

Chad isn't one for horsing around with the other geldings in the stable, and his riders say a relaxing, quiet life in Wagner's pasture is the best gift he could receive.

He's always been a little high strung. He once had to undergo emergency surgery when a scrape on his front left leg became seriously infected. He got the injury by kicking himself while running into his stable during a training exercise, Schantz said. The empty saddle on his back started to slip and he got scared.

Even Wednesday morning the old pro seemed on edge. His muscles tensed when a shovel clattered against the pavement outside police headquarters, and he took a few seconds to anxiously trot in place during the memorial's 21-gun salute, drool forming around his puffy lip.

But to the crowd and to his team, Chad is nothing short of a noble steed.

"I've been to so many of these ceremonies, but every time I see the riderless horse it brings a tear to my eye," said Marlene Reese after Chad's final tribute to fallen officers was completed. Reese attended the Tampa Police Department's ceremony for each of the 57 years she was married to the son of Officer Bryan A. Reese, killed during a training exercise in 1935.

Even though her husband died November 2012, Marlene Reese keeps coming back every year. Sitting alone behind oversized sunglasses, the only tears that managed to fall down her cheeks came when Chad made his way slowly past her seat.

"He always loved the horses," Reese said of her husband. "As long as they're here, I'll be here to thank them for honoring both of my boys."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

     
   
Comments
Police: Infant in stolen St. Petersburg car found safe; driver on loose

Police: Infant in stolen St. Petersburg car found safe; driver on loose

ST. PETERSBURG — An 8-month-old boy was found safe after he was in a car that was stolen on Monday afternoon.Police say the person who stole the car left the child in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 800 71st Ave. N before driving off.The c...
Updated: 10 minutes 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: 20 minutes ago
Deputies: Port Richey man admits to molesting 8-year-old girl

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

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man was arrested Friday after Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies said he told them he molested and attempted to rape an 8-year-old girl. Kaleb Harrah, 26, of Port Richey, faces three molestation charges and an attempted rape charge. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FHP: Man struck, killed by car in Trinity

FHP: Man struck, killed by car in Trinity

TRINITY — A man was killed after he was struck by a car while walking in the street near Trinity and Tamarind boulevards early Monday, according to Florida Highway Patrol.Phillip Meadows, 49, of New Port Richey, was wearing dark clothing while walkin...
Updated: 2 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 ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Waffle House suspect still being sought; residents on alert

Waffle House suspect still being sought; residents on alert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As an intensive manhunt continues for the suspect in a Waffle House restaurant shooting that killed four people, police are warning residents of a Nashville neighborhood to beware of the alleged killer. More than 80 Nashville polic...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Teen killed in crash remembered as

Teen killed in crash remembered as "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...
Updated: 8 hours ago
4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapo...
Published: 04/22/18
Tampa Police investigating fatal hit-and-run on Selmon Expressway

Tampa Police investigating fatal hit-and-run on Selmon Expressway

TAMPA — Police say a person is dead after a hit-and-run crash Sunday on the Selmon Expressway.Someone called authorities about 10 a.m., reporting a person on the entrance ramp to the highway near the intersection of W Cleveland Street and S Willow Av...
Published: 04/22/18