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Accused of hitting woman, St. Petersburg police officer quits

ST. PETERSBURG — Before he served the city as a police officer, Kevin Hicks served his country as a soldier. As an Army National Guard cavalry scout in Afghanistan, his commander said Hicks displayed "high moral standards and common sense."

But authorities say those traits were lacking in December when Hicks became involved in a drunken street brawl that left Hicks shirtless, bloody and under suspicion. Witnesses said Hicks slugged a woman during the fracas.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office believed them. After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors charged Hicks with misdemeanor battery last month.

Hicks denied it and said he was the one who was attacked. He had been restricted to desk duty since the Dec. 21 incident. But once charged with a crime, the department intended to suspend him without pay.

Before that happened, Hicks resigned Monday. The 29-year-old was an officer for 16 months.

But the fight's not over yet. Hicks pleaded not guilty to the charge. His attorney said Hicks will contest the allegations.

"That's exactly what they are," said attorney Joseph Ciarciaglino Jr. "Allegations."

• • •

Kevin Hicks and a host of witnesses provided dozens of pages of statements to a detective. Here's the short version:

Hicks said his evening started out at the St. Petersburg Bowl with his sister and brother. By 2 a.m., they were at Durty Nelly's at 661 Central Ave, Hicks told investigators.

It was his fifth bar that night, Hicks said, and he had imbibed 10 to 12 alcoholic drinks.

Central Avenue was in chaos. Two women fought on the street.

When one of the women tried to back her car out, police said, she accidentally rolled over a man who was leaning his bicycle against her car, breaking his leg.

Witnesses said Hicks reached into the woman's car and took her cell phone, then said he was an officer and needed to call 911.

A friend of the driver, Rebecca Reed, 21, said she told Hicks to give it back and to use his own phone. Reed said Hicks hid the phone behind his back and said he was an "undercover cop." The two kept arguing.

Then Reed said Hicks punched her with his right hand.

Her left jaw was visibly swollen and red, the report said.

Then several men, Reed said, rushed Hicks.

Two days after the incident, Hicks told a detective that's not what happened.

Hicks said he went to help the bicyclist. He denied reaching into the car or taking anything.

Then, Hicks said, several men confronted him. He showed them his badge. But Hicks said he was punched and kicked to the ground. His shirt was torn off and he was left bleeding.

His brother, Andrew Hicks, backed up that account.

"I mean, you could tell that these guys were just out for blood," Kevin Hicks said. "They were just going to fight."

• • •

The woman who ran over the bicyclist was not cited. A police spokesman could not say why, but speculated she may not have been at fault.

No one was arrested for assaulting Hicks. But two men who police said admitted taking part in that night's brawling were arrested on charges they carried illegal brass knuckles.

Joseph Vanwart, 26, pleaded no contest Feb. 24 to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon and paid a fine.

Steven Kelly, 25, faces a felony charge of being a felon in possession of a concealed weapon. He told police he carried them for protection in a bad economy.

Hicks, a graduate of St. Petersburg Catholic High School, was charged with battery on Feb. 27. An internal police investigation is ongoing. A police spokesman would not say if a conviction would have led to Hicks' firing.

His attorney said Hicks was done with law enforcement.

"He's just moving on," said Ciarciaglino, general counsel for the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association. "This kid's a sharp kid with a lot of opportunities, and that's why he resigned."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Accused of hitting woman, St. Petersburg police officer quits 03/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 8:02am]
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