Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

More than a dozen arrests result from Hillsborough synthetic marijuana raid

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office warned retailers months ago to stop selling synthetic marijuana.

A letter sent to area businesses in March offered owners the chance to turn over inventory of the drug to the Sheriff's Office before it became illegal to possess.

But not everyone cooperated.

On Friday, undercover officers in the sheriff's Special Investigations Division along with agents of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco raided 10 convenience stores and arrested 15 people for selling the designer drug, said Tom Feeney, commander of the Special Investigations Division.

Officers confiscated nearly a half-million dollars in drugs.

"There were a number of these stores, despite our warnings, that continued to act as though they were impervious to our law enforcement efforts," Feeney said.

The drugs, sold under labels such as K-2 and Spice, are marketed as incense or plant food.

The drugs have been linked to convulsions, tremors and deadly overdoses.

"This is no different than cocaine, no different than heroin, no different than PCP," Feeney said. "And nobody ... has any earthly idea what long term effect this drug is going to have on kids in this community."

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi launched a crusade against synthetic drugs in 2011, first issuing an emergency rule outlawing so-called "bath salts" that mimic cocaine or amphetamine.

This year, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that expanded the number of chemical compounds banned.

Still, it can be hard for prosecutors to prove wrongdoing in court because as more chemicals are outlawed, manufacturers tweak the formulas to get new, legal versions.

None of the drugs confiscated in Friday's haul had been tested yet, Feeney said. But those arrested were charged under the Federal Analog Act, which states that any chemical "substantially similar" to a controlled substance be treated as one, if intended for human consumption.

"It's uncharted territory," Feeney said. "We've got to test those laws and we've got to set a precedent."

And this won't be the end of arrests, Feeney said.

"Our efforts don't stop here," he said. "We are going to vigorously investigate any and all complaints."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

Comments
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 minutes 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: 20 minutes 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: 1 hour 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
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...
Published: 04/22/18
New Port Richey doctor dies in single-car crash on SR 580

New Port Richey doctor dies in single-car crash on SR 580

A 49-year-old doctor died early Saturday in a single-car crash on State Road 580.Kristin Carlin, of New Port Richey, was driving in the eastbound lanes of SR 580 shortly before 6 a.m. when she failed to round a curve and veered off the road near Char...
Published: 04/21/18
Updated: 04/22/18
Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

The first time deputies arrested Samuel Morrissey Jr., he faced charges of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed firearm. He plead no contest in September, and the judge gave him a break by withholding adjudication. Ten days later, the 20-...
Published: 04/21/18
Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Man who attacked woman and stole her shorts arrested, deputies say

Deputies arrested a man they said tackled a woman in February and removed her shorts before fleeing.Robert Mark Hembree Jr., 31, was arrested late Friday. He faces charges of sexual battery and petit theft.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Detectives seek man who a...
Published: 04/21/18
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Published: 04/21/18