TAMPA — A call went out to deputies less than a month ago from the home of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair. It was his wife, Toni. Their 17-year-old son, Brett, had run away for the sixth time.
On the night of May 29, she walked in on a party Brett had thrown. Toni and Brian Blair argued with the teenager before he went to bed at 2 a.m., she told a deputy. When she woke up, Brett was gone.
After Brett didn't report to his afternoon job at a Sweetbay Supermarket, she called authorities. She said that in the past, he returned in a day or so, or turned up at Chamberlain High School.
The incident offers insight into Blair family tensions made public after the father's arrest Sunday morning on felony child abuse charges. The Department of Children and Families is investigating.
A judge released Blair on his own recognizance Monday, meaning he did not have to post bail. As he left jail, Blair told reporters the arrest was "a real, I guess, unfortunate situation. It's a misunderstanding that could have been prevented."
"I have over 7,000 hours mentoring children, and the last thing I'd ever do is hurt a kid," Blair said. "Sometimes, the hardest kids to mentor are your own."
Brett Blair told deputies the altercation started when he returned home from playing basketball.
It was 4 a.m.
The 52-year-old conservative Republican touted family values in his political campaigns, and served four years in the commission's District 6 seat. He was defeated in his bid for re-election last fall by Kevin Beckner.
Blair has hinted that he may make another run at the commission or try for a seat in the state Legislature. The account that follows would likely serve as ammunition for his opponents:
Brett Blair told deputies that when he got to his Forest Hills home, he argued with his dad, who he said had been drinking. Blair shoved Brett in the chest, the report states.
Blair was once part of a tag-team wrestling duo known as the Killer Bees. He's 6 feet tall and weighs 235 pounds.
When Brett tried to walk away, Blair grabbed him, punched him in the face and put him in a choke hold, the report says. He then let go of Brett, grabbed younger son Bradley by the throat and punched him.
Bradley, the report says, is 12.
There were two other boys, ages 18 and 15, at the Blair house during the incident, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter. Their names will not be released because they are witnesses. Carter said they were not involved in the incident.
One of the juveniles called 911. Both sons identified their father as the person who attacked them, and Blair was taken to the Hillsborough County jail, charged with two felony counts of child abuse. Deputies said the older son sustained some swelling. The younger one, a bump on his head.
Blair spent Father's Day in jail.
Blair stood in an orange jumpsuit Monday morning at his first appearance in court, watching on close-circuit television while his attorney, George Lorenzo, told a judge the former commissioner wasn't a flight risk, that he had no criminal record.
Blair was allowed to go home, without restrictions on seeing his children, Carter said. The Department of Children and Families has never looked at the Blair family before this case, said spokesman Nick Cox.
When asked whether he has let down his constituents, Blair said, "if they were there, I think they'd understand the situation."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.