Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg undercover officer honored for drug fight

Every now and then, Richard McKee gets asked what he does for a living.

He isn't exactly clean-cut. So he tells people that he's a street sweeper or a garbage truck driver or just "retired."

In reality, McKee, 45, is an undercover detective for the St. Petersburg Police Department's vice and narcotics unit. His job involves getting the trust of drug dealers so police can gather enough evidence to arrest them.

On Thursday, McKee was recognized at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club as the department's officer of the year.

The job requires an unusual set of skills.

"You have to learn how to talk and convince people that you're with them," McKee said. "Your mind and your gift of gab is your best tool."

McKee has been with the department for about 16 1/2 years and an undercover detective for the past three years. He has also been in the Air Force and is part of the Naval Reserve.

In recent years he has been involved in several high-profile cases, such as the attempted firebombing of neighborhood watch leaders in Palmetto Park.

He also played a big role in the arrest and federal indictment and conviction of Eric Lemon in 2006, who police and federal agents say had become the leader of the largest illegal drug distribution ring in Childs Park, according to local police and federal agents. He moved several kilograms of crack cocaine and other illegal drugs through the area each week, authorities said.

McKee's role in that case: gaining Lemon's trust so he could directly purchase drugs from him.

"It was half luck and half skill," McKee said. "I made some phone calls and got my name known and was able to make contact with Lemon and make direct purchases with him."

McKee purchased about $10,000 in crack and powder cocaine. He remembers Lemon telling him: "Just come on by." After that purchase Lemon was arrested and later pleaded guilty. He's currently serving a 17-year prison sentence.

Did it make a difference?

McKee thinks so. He says when he talks to other dealers, he senses a new fear.

"They're still scared out of their pants," he said. "They know if he can go, they can go."

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8472.

St. Petersburg undercover officer honored for drug fight 03/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 11:57am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers

    Crime

    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.