NEW PORT RICHEY — A decorated Pasco sheriff's deputy who won the agency's Medal of Valor Lifesaving Award in January is now ensnared in a criminal investigation.
Marshall T. DeBerry, a 45-year-old who worked for 15 years as an optician before going into law enforcement, was notified Feb. 22 that he was being placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation. He was charged with "failure to follow general orders, directives, procedures and special orders."
DeBerry resigned that day.
"It's no longer an administrative investigation," said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. "It's part of a criminal investigation.
"And we have no further comment at this time."
DeBerry did not return a call for comment Thursday by the Times. He was hired in 2003 and rose to the rank of corporal until 2008, when he was reassigned to patrol deputy and suspended two days without pay for warning an informant of an impending raid, according to a report.
"This action placed the undercover officer's safety in jeopardy as well as compromising the investigation and all involved," the report states.
In 2007, DeBerry and another deputy shot an unstable man who refused to show them what he held behind his back; even after the man was twice jolted with a Taser. His weapon turned out to be a serving fork. The man lived and both deputies were cleared in the shooting.
According to DeBerry's review in September, he was working with the Tampa Bay Regional Gang Task Force, a multi-agency unit focused on reducing gang crime. This review, like his others, was positive.
His supervisor said:
"Deputy DeBerry has a very calm and personable demeanor. … He is a team player, and well liked by his squad members.
"He makes a good first impression."
DeBerry wrote that he hoped, in the future, to be transferred to the tactical narcotics team or criminal investigations bureau.
"I plan to continue my development as an investigator and apply for potential advancement in the agency," DeBerry wrote.
His personnel file paints DeBerry as hard-working, sincere and earnest.
As a teenager in Colorado, he washed dishes and installed fireplaces. He was a manager at Bonanza and a waiter at Wok-n-Roll. He studied nursing at the University of Colorado and then became an optician, which was what he did when he moved to Pasco County in 1997. Then, in 2002, the business where he worked filed for bankruptcy and he went in a new direction. He went to the law enforcement academy at Pasco-Hernando Community College and, according to his resume, was the class president and graduated in 2003 with the highest grade point average of his group.
In his application, he said he wanted a job with the Sheriff's Office because he heard it was an ethical agency.
"I am a very ethical, loyal and trustworthy person," he wrote. "The people skills I possess and the abilities that would make me an excellent deputy, makes the Pasco County Sheriff's Office a great choice for me and my future employment."
He coached youth soccer and is an avid motorcycle rider. He goes by his middle name, "Todd." He was single when he was hired in 2003 and, since then, has been married and divorced.
Letters about DeBerry from citizens were glowing.
"I'm eternally grateful," wrote a woman whose husband of 49 years was saved by DeBerry in August. The man had locked himself in his bedroom, shot himself in the jaw and was attempting to refire. DeBerry kicked down the door, wrestled the gun from him and kept him alive until paramedics arrived. That was the case that awarded DeBerry the Medal of Valor in January.
It was his second such award in his career. His first was in 2007, also for wrestling a gun from a suicidal man.
Many letters spoke of his "caring and compassionate" manner.
"Thank you for hiring him," one woman wrote to the sheriff, after DeBerry calmed the woman's daughter during a domestic situation in 2009. "What could have been an extremely upsetting situation, Deputy DeBerry turned it into a very calming experience …
"There should be more deputies like him."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.