Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg woman accused of riding manatee arrested

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman who became the subject of a law enforcement publicity effort after she was spotted in September riding a manatee at Fort De Soto Park was arrested Saturday and charged with violating the state's Manatee Sanctuary Act, authorities said.

Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, 53, was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant while working at Sears at Tyrone Square Mall, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Gutierrez had turned herself in to authorities in October after sheriff's officials distributed photographs to local media showing her straddling a manatee at the beach.

The photos were taken by another beach visitor who saw Gutierrez riding the manatee Sept. 30 in the water north of Gulf Pier, authorities said. Onlookers called the Sheriff's Office, but deputies who responded found neither Gutierrez — who was unidentified at the time — nor the animal.

The Sheriff's Office shared the photographs a few days later and held a news conference Oct. 2 at which Sheriff Bob Gualtieri referred to manatees as "a huge part of our culture here in Florida" and decried the alleged abuse of the animals.

"Go ride a Jet Ski," the sheriff said. "Don't use animals."

Shortly thereafter, Gutierrez phoned the agency and admitted touching the manatee, authorities said. She later told sheriff's deputies she didn't know that doing so was illegal.

The case was referred to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, which issued the misdemeanor arrest warrant.

Gutierrez was released Saturday from the Pinellas County Jail on $1,500 bail. She did not return a reporter's request for comment. A man who answered the door at her St. Petersburg home late Saturday denied that she lived there.

Under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, sea cow molestation is a second-degree misdemeanor, an offense punishable by a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

Authorities said in early October that they did not believe the manatee was physically hurt. The psychological impact of the incident is harder to assess, they said.

Times staff writer Peter Jamison contributed to this report.

Comments
Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is setting the record straight about a viral Facebook video posted by a Dunedin woman who claimed she almost fell victim to human trafficking. Lynne Knowles took to Facebook to share what happened to her at the Pu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office launches Facebook, Twitter accounts in Spanish

Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office launches Facebook, Twitter accounts in Spanish

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office now has Facebook and Twitter accounts in Spanish.The agency celebrated the official launch of the accounts on Wednesday. Sheriff Chad Chronister said the goal is to connect with an increasing number of...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco man taken down by K9 after attempting to kidnap infant girl, putting schools on lockdown

Pasco man taken down by K9 after attempting to kidnap infant girl, putting schools on lockdown

NEW PORT RICHEY — A few hours before he was lying on his back in the woods, shirtless with a dog’s jaws clamped around his arm, Kevin Wilson climbed into a second-story window and tried to kidnap a 6-month-old baby girl, according to the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

WASHINGTON — While Hurricane Florence barreled through the Carolinas, a different type of storm was brewing within the federal disaster relief agency tasked with responding to the fallout.The fate of Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergen...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Largo names new fire chief

Largo names new fire chief

LARGO — After two nationwide searches that produced 119 applicants, City Manager Henry Schubert didn’t have to look far to find his new fire chief.Schubert announced recently that Chad Pittman, deputy chief of Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, w...
Published: 09/19/18
Police release name of man shot Tuesday at Tampa apartment complex

Police release name of man shot Tuesday at Tampa apartment complex

TAMPA — An 18-year-old man was critically injured Tuesday when he was shot at an apartment complex in northeast Tampa.Officers responded about 2:30 a.m. to a call about an unknown emergency at the Silver Oaks Apartments, 4200 Kenneth Court, Ta...
Published: 09/18/18
Fatal punch on Gandy median leads to manslaughter charge in Tampa muralist’s death

Fatal punch on Gandy median leads to manslaughter charge in Tampa muralist’s death

TAMPA — Police are bringing manslaughter charges against a Tampa man accused of throwing a fatal punch last April at well-known local muralist Matt Callahan.The suspect, 34-year-old Keith Mauga of Tampa, already is serving five years for aggravated b...
Published: 09/18/18
Police: Tarpon Springs man killed crossing road in wheelchair

Police: Tarpon Springs man killed crossing road in wheelchair

TARPON SPRINGS — A 58-year-old man was killed Monday after a car struck him as he was crossing the road in a wheelchair.According to Tarpon Springs police, Jon Pendleton, operating a manual wheelchair, started to cross U.S. 19 near Martin Luther King...
Published: 09/18/18
Fort Myers brothers wanted for stealing trailers caught in Pasco, taken down by K9

Fort Myers brothers wanted for stealing trailers caught in Pasco, taken down by K9

LAND O'LAKES — It started just after 9:30 Saturday night. Detectives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office called counterparts in Pasco. Suspects they had been following through several counties might be hitting a trailer lot along Land O...
Published: 09/18/18
A gopher tortoise has been found with pink painted nails and shell

A gopher tortoise has been found with pink painted nails and shell

Photos once again are surfacing again on social media after someone painted a gopher tortoise. In a post on its Facebook page, the non-profit Owl's Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife in Odessa showed photos of a rescued female tortoise -- which is a threat...
Published: 09/18/18