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Birthday gift blamed for cop shooting

LARGO — The shooting that nearly killed a police detective on April 30 began because two robbers needed money to buy their getaway driver a pair of Coach shoes for her 19th birthday, a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office detective testified Friday.

Danielle Karlau told investigators that Joseph Hollings Jr. had promised her the pricey shoes for her April 26 birthday, according to Detective John Spoor.

She drove Hollings, 18, and Velislav Matzov, 19, to the video store at 5100 66th Street the night the two men robbed it, Spoor said.

As the men left, they ran into a St. Petersburg police detective. Authorities say Matzov fired at the 36-year-old detective, striking him and nearly killing him. The detective, who is not being named because of his undercover status, also shot at Matzov, wounding him.

The new details came out during a hearing Friday to determine whether Hollings, Matzov and 18-year-old William Jaeger should be out of jail on bond until trial.

They — along with Danny Knight, 17, and Karlau — also are charged in a string of pharmacy robberies in Pinellas County.

Authorities say four of the five are members of a local gang called the Haines Road Cru, and that Matzov had recently begun hanging out with them.

Judge Nancy Moate Ley ruled that all except Knight should be held without bond. Knight's bond was set at $120,000.

The crimes "not only started out serious, but they got more serious," the judge said.

Ley's decision came after testimony from a pharmacist, detectives and police Chief Chuck Harmon, who said his detective has "a long road to recovery."

"We don't know the long-term prognosis," Harmon said. "He has not returned to work, and I don't expect him to return to work for some time."

CVS pharmacist Donald Bodey told the judge he was "shocked and stunned" when robbers pointed a gun at him. Authorities have linked various combinations of the five arrested teenagers to three pharmacy robberies.

"That is a danger to our community," said prosecutor Aaron Slavin.

In all, he said, the group stole about 3,000 pills of drugs like OxyContin.

Slavin also pointed out that Matzov fired after seeing the officer's badge.

Matzov's father, Vladimir, testified that his son was a soccer player and Northeast High graduate who had traveled to Europe.

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Birthday gift blamed for cop shooting 05/23/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2008 4:30pm]

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