Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas jail deputy fired after smacking, pinning inmate to ground

LARGO — A Pinellas County detention deputy was fired for smacking an inmate and pinning him to the ground of the jail's booking area, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday.

Deputy Richard Stotts, 48, was fired by Gualtieri on Monday after the findings of an internal affairs investigation were sustained by an administrative review board last week.

On May 8 about 9:30 p.m., Stotts was working in the booking area when a handcuffed David Alan Koons, 38, arrived on charges of disorderly conduct, battery on an officer, and resisting an officer.

Koons was arrested after yelling racial slurs on a PSTA bus and lunging at a Clearwater police officer, according to arrest affidavits.

Inside the booking area, Koons continued yelling profanities and racial slurs, this time toward jail staff. Stotts was working at a counter when Koons arrived. (Stotts and Koons are both white.)

Surveillance video shows Stotts slowly approaching Koons and then abruptly smacking him on the head and neck, wrapping his right arm around his head and pinning him to the ground. Several deputies then intervened.

Supervisors reviewing surveillance video saw the incident, which lasted less than 1 minute, and filed a complaint. Stotts, a 12-year Sheriff's Office employee, later told internal affairs investigators he overreacted and lost his temper, adding that he "perceived" Koons was moving toward him.

"Despite the fact that Koons was running his mouth and he was verbally loud and somewhat abusive, he didn't threaten anybody," Gualtieri said at a news conference Monday. "When you lose your temper and you lose your cool, then you're not going to work here anymore."

Koons of New Port Richey was released from the jail May 17 on $5,250 bail. He was not hurt when Stotts struck him, Gualtieri said. Koons and Stotts could not be reached for comment Monday.

Criminal charges will not be sought against Stotts since Koons has not cooperated with investigators, Gualtieri said. If that were to change, the sheriff said, charges would be considered.

Stotts has been the subject of prior investigations before, Gualtieri said, including some involving improper conduct toward inmates. Those allegations were not sustained.

Stotts' firing is the latest in a string of cases of excessive use of force at the Pinellas County jail.

In June, the Sheriff's Office fired another detention deputy, Elizabeth Kretzer, 40, accused of slapping a female inmate. A criminal investigation is ongoing in that case.

In October, Desmond Quinn, 40, was fired for grabbing a handcuffed inmate by the throat and throwing him to the ground.

Gualtieri said the firings are not related and don't illustrate a problem within the jail.

"We have about 750 deputies that work in the Pinellas County jail, and the absolute majority of them are professional," he said. "We are policing our own."

Times staff researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

Comments
Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

TAMPA — The 1-month-old infant reported missing Monday was found hours later about 300 miles north in Quincy, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Sage Cooper was reported to be unharmed, officials said, and Gadsden Cou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

TAMPA — A 68-year-old man was arrested Monday on a first-degree murder charge, according to Tampa police.Officers took James Leon Jackson into custody at 2712 W Nassau St. in west Tampa at about 1 p.m. A warrant for his arrest had been issued Friday....
Updated: 7 hours ago
In search for stolen car, the baby inside was the calmest one

In search for stolen car, the baby inside was the calmest one

ST. PETERSBURG — Photojournalist Michael Egger pulled into the apartment complex off 71st Avenue N on Monday afternoon, waiting for reporter Mark Douglas. The two WFLA-Ch. 8 journalists were looking for someone — they wouldn’t say who — when they fou...
Updated: 9 hours ago
‘Tase me, and you’ll see what happens,’ an American Airlines flier said. Police did - 10 times.

‘Tase me, and you’ll see what happens,’ an American Airlines flier said. Police did - 10 times.

Washington PostWhat began as a simple boarding dispute at Miami International Airport escalated into a tour de force of plane drama on Sunday as a belligerent passenger was repeatedly stunned by police, forcibly carried out of his seat, then driven t...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Deputies: Port Richey man admits molesting, attempting to rape 8-year-old girl

Deputies: Port Richey man admits molesting, attempting to rape 8-year-old girl

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 26-year-old man was arrested Friday on charges that he molested and attempted to rape an 8-year-old girl, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Kaleb Harrah, 26, of Port Richey, faces charges of attempted sexual battery o...
Updated: 11 hours ago
FHP: Man struck, killed by SUV while walking in center of road

FHP: Man struck, killed by SUV while walking in center of road

TRINITY — A 49-year-old man was struck and killed early Monday morning by a sport-utility vehicle as he walked in the center of westbound Trinity Boulevard, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Phillip Meadows, of New Port Richey, was wearing dark...
Published: 04/23/18
Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

TAMPA — A man with a history of arrests for roadside soliciting has been found dead at the side of a road. Jess Paez, 51, was identified by Tampa police Monday as the victim of an apparent hit-and-run crash over the weekend. His body was found about ...
Published: 04/23/18
Police arrest suspect in Waffle House shooting

Police arrest suspect in Waffle House shooting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The suspect in a quadruple homicide at a Nashville Waffle House was taken into custody Monday, police said. Authorities had mounted a massive manhunt for 29-year-old Travis Reinking, after the Sunday morning attacks. Authorities an...
Published: 04/23/18
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 ...
Published: 04/23/18
Teen killed in Hernando crash was ‘always smiling and laughing’

Teen killed in Hernando crash was ‘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
Updated: 04/23/18