Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Public safety

St. Petersburg police investigating death of man who claimed mistreatment during arrest

ST. PETERSBURG — The St. Petersburg Police Department is investigating the death of a man who was arrested last week on drug charges and claimed mistreatment by officers.

Tony Sands Welch, 42, died at St. Anthony's Hospital on Tuesday shortly after he phoned the department's Internal Affairs division to complain about his treatment during his Friday arrest.

"Subsequent to that, he suffered some sort of medical episode and died," said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

The manner or cause of Welch's death was not immediately clear Wednesday, Puetz said. His specific complaint to the department also was not immediately clear.

"Obviously it dealt with some degree of mistreatment on the part of the officers who arrested him," Puetz said.

Detectives executed a search warrant Friday at a house at 1238 43rd St. S. They arrested Welch there on charges of operating a drug house and possession of cocaine with intent to sell. Officers found 17 grams of cocaine wrapped in plastic bags, according to an arrest report.

Welch's son, Tony Welch Jr., 20, also was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Officers found him with a black Colt .38 Special containing three live rounds, arrest reports state.

Tamika Nicole Smith, 31, also was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana.

The elder Welch was held in the Pinellas County Jail until Sunday, when he was released on $10,500 bail, according to records.

St. Petersburg police have launched an internal affairs investigation and a death investigation, Puetz said. Welch's body was taken to the Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy.

Smith declined to comment Wednesday when reached by phone, saying she was still grieving. Welch's family could not be reached for comment.

Welch had a criminal history in Pinellas County with convictions stretching to 1988 that included grand theft of a motor vehicle, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and sale of cocaine.

He served several stints in prison, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Most recently, he served a two-year sentence from 2006 to 2008 for cocaine possession and driving with a suspended license.

Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at (727) 893-8321.

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