ST. PETERSBURG — Maj. Donnie Williams commands the officers who protect and investigate the city's children.
But St. Petersburg police said Williams also fell prey to one of them, a juvenile very close to him. The major's loaded, department-issued weapon was stolen by his 16-year-old grandson, according to police.
Williams was reprimanded Thursday by the St. Petersburg Police Department for losing his gun back in June.
That's also when the grandson, Deandre Bradford, was arrested as a juvenile on a charge of grand theft.
The teen was riding with his grandfather, according to police reports, when Bradford stole the handgun from a computer bag behind the driver's seat while he was left alone in the vehicle on June 13, the grandson said.
Bradford told police he sold the .40-caliber Glock 22 with the loaded clip to an unidentified person in Bartlett Park for $250 two days later.
The gun turned up June 17 when undercover detectives corralled a group of men accused of a series of vehicle burglaries. They recovered the police major's gun, along with two guns that were stolen from morning radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Police think the major's gun was sold several times before its recovery.
When Williams reported the weapon missing, an internal investigation was launched to see if he left his personal vehicle unlocked.
Bradford was implicated, according to his arrest report, when his fingerprints were recovered during the investigation. But the report did not indicate where the fingerprints were found. Police said the teen admitted he took the gun and hid it in the pocket of his shorts.
He was arrested June 19 and taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Williams — who oversees school resource officers, the crimes-against-children unit and the gang intelligence team — declined to comment Thursday.
The 31-year department veteran is no stranger to headlines. Neither is his family.
In 1998, he was promoted to lieutenant even as the department investigated a police informant's allegations linking Williams to drug activity. A police official later testified the allegations weren't substantiated. Yet city lawyers fought to keep the investigation secret, and an officer who complained about the inquiry was fired.
Williams also was implicated in a time-sheet fraud case in 1998 that led to half of the undercover narcotics unit being disciplined or dismissed. It also led to a reverse-discrimination lawsuit against the department that was dismissed in 2001.
Then in 2002, Williams' son, then 21, was acquitted along with three others on charges they abducted and gang-raped a mentally challenged 17-year-old girl.
The arrest of Williams' grandson came to light Thursday when police Chief Chuck Harmon and a chain-of-command board issued a permanent, written reprimand to be placed in Williams' personnel file.
The board found that the major violated regulations by not caring for his department-issued equipment and by not preventing its loss or theft.
The board noted that police officers must always ensure the security of their firearms — even around their own families.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8472.